Political advertising is threatening to become a free-for-all with
the ad industry refusing to police it and the Government reluctant to
hand the job to the Electoral Commission.
The Committee of Advertising Practice codes, published this week,
confirmed the industry’s intention to cut loose political ads from its
jurisdiction from the beginning of next year.
But Jack Straw, the home secretary, fears the Electoral Commission’s
impartiality will be at risk if it takes over regulation.
Now industry leaders are worried that, unless something is done, media
owners will be asked to accept highly contentious political ads with no
rules to guide them.
John Hooper, who chaired the codes review working group, said: ’The
industry is more than willing to assist in helping to find a solution.
But the political parties haven’t been able reach a consensus and it’s
up to them to sort it out.’
The codes also sweep away the outdated system of agencies having to
approach the Lord Chamberlain’s office for permission to use a member of
the Royal Family in an ad. From now on, permission will have to be given
by individual family members.
’The Lord Chamberlain always refuses yet he has no actual authority to
do so,’ Hooper explained.
’The Royal Family is entitled to protection - but no more than a film
star or a famous footballer.’
Other changes in the code include the inclusion of casinos and other
gambling establishments, now permitted by law to advertise, and moves to
curb misleading price comparisons by airlines.
Under the updated rules, non-optional extras, such as airport taxes,
must be included in advertised prices.