Close-up: Live Issue - BACC's new director promises to speed up its reaction times

Ron Coomber appreciates the meticulous approach, Rachel Gardner discovers.

Ron Coomber may have dedicated a lengthy career to working in commercial TV, but he is the first to acknowledge that he's far from a household name.

"I guess I'm the original backroom boy who has been around a long time but nobody knows who I am," he candidly confesses, in an apologetic manner.

As the new director of the Broadcast Advertising Clearance Centre - the body that pre-vets TV advertising in Britain - Coomber can wave goodbye to a behind-the-scenes life of anonymity that began in the TV world at ABC Television as an office junior.

Having left school at 15 with just two GCEs under his belt - in metal work and mechanical drawing - he briefly pursued the dream of becoming a cameraman or sound engineer before being sucked into the traffic departments at Yorkshire TV, Trident and latterly TV South West.

Over the years, he has liaised closely with the Independent Television Commission, earning the reputation of being "Mr Regulator" since joining Carlton Television in 1992 as its sales administration director.

Certainly he will need to call upon this extensive industry experience if he is to fend off those advertising agencies, television moguls and ferocious critics, who will no doubt be baying for his blood if he falters.

The BACC may never court controversy in the way that the Advertising Standards Authority does - it does not pull ads from screens and has no direct contact with consumers - but the lead role there remains a job for only the most consummate diplomat.

Be too cautious and conservative and risk raising agency hackles, let ads sneak through and you end up with the kind of flak that followed the ITC's banning of Tango's "megaphone" spot in 2001.

There's also been a lot of criticism for Bacardi's "welcome to the Latin Quarter" campaign starring Vinnie Jones.

Coomber calmly argues that, unlike his predecessor Uisdean Maclean, he would have adopted the tough line and not sanctioned the script's release.

"I always thought it was pushing the boundaries," he says. "To use a celebrity to promote booze and almost encourage binge-drinking is a step too far."

Coomber arrives just as alcohol advertising and campaigns aimed at children come under increasingly intense scrutiny.

It is also the start of a period of considerable change for the BACC.

Indeed, Maclean, who is departing after 17 years in the hot seat, is understood not to have savoured the prospect of tackling the host of technical and relationship changes which now await his successor.

Rather than being controlled by the now-obsolete ITC, the BACC will come under the wing of the ASA, whose powers have been extended from print and cinema ads to incorporate broadcast ads.

Later this year, the newly formed Advertising Standards Authority Broadcasting will become the single point of contact for complaints, while the Broadcasting Code of Advertising Practice will take over the running of the code.

Under the new regulatory framework, ultimate authority on broadcasting lies with Ofcom, with Coomber reporting directly to Helen Stevens, ITV's director of broadcast research. The BACC is bankrolled by broadcasters.

So is Coomber up to the task ahead? Martin Bowley, the former chief executive of Carlton Sales, who worked with Coomber at both Carlton and Television South West, believes he has the necessary qualities.

"At Cannes, Ron was one of the few people who would actually go and watch all the ads," he says.

"He is a completely honest and trustworthy man, who will build on the job done by Maclean. He has always had a good feel for advertising and fully understands the pressure there is on agencies to get ads out."

Bowley goes on to admit that, on several occasions, Coomber saved his skin by advising him against clearing a controversial ad.

Bowley's description suggests Coomber is well equipped to deal with the monotony of a job that involves overseeing the pre-vetting of around 40,000 scripts each year.

The BACC must see all finished films before they can be aired. But with the proliferation of TV channels and more ads arriving from Europe, its workload has shot through the roof in recent years.

Coomber accepts there is a need for change at the body, which has long been criticised for being out of date and out of touch, one of its greatest shortfalls being the length of time between an agency sending in an ad and it being passed.

He says: "Everyone seems to think the BACC is there to see everything is decent, honest and truthful. But I think the role needs to move forward now we are moving into a new regulatory environment.

"The BACC needs to be able to react more quickly. It has tended to be too slow in responding in the past sometimes. I would like to beef it up and get more resources in."

A new computer system is being installed to speed up the sometimes drawn-out process.

The acceptance of ads, submitted as digital files, will also ensure a more user-friendly, effective service, Coomber believes.

He explains in his typically calm way how he is excited about the prospect of working for a small company where decisions can be made and reacted to quickly.

Whether he chooses to use that opportunity to ruffle a few feathers is another matter.

Whatever happens, you get the impression that reason, coupled with caution, will prevail.

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