Government reserves power to ban categories of ads

By Our Parliamentary correspondent, campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 23 July 2004 12:00AM

The Government has revealed that it could impose a ban on junk food and alcohol commercials even if the new regulatory bodies for broadcast ads opposed such curbs.

Ministers have taken reserve powers to over-ride Ofcom and a new Advertising Standards Authority (Broadcast) to run in parallel with the ASA, which regulates print. The legislation allowing the new "co-regulation" system was approved by Parliament last Friday.

Dick Caborn, a minister at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, told MPs that the Government would consult Ofcom and hope to resolve the issue by agreement if it wanted curbs on any particular form of advertising.

He made it clear that Ofcom, which will have a backstop role, could over-rule the new ASA body, which will handle day-to-day regulation and complaints.

The Tory frontbencher Malcolm Moss asked whether Ofcom or the ASA (Broadcast) could be forced to impose tougher controls on ads for products such as food and alcohol. "If it has the freedom to set its own codes, what sanctions can be applied to ensure that it fits in with what we want to see achieved politically?" he asked.

Caborn replied that the new legislation would confirm powers in the 2003 Communications Act for "the ultimate power" to reside with the culture secretary, Tessa Jowell. "The Secretary of State may issue directions in relation to prohibited categories of advertising," he said.

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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