Reading the Daily Mail last week, you might have been forgiven for
believing that the Independent Television Commission was giving escort
agencies the chance to pimp on air.
For all the huffing and puffing of middle England’s mouthpiece, however,
the ITC’s plans to bring a lighter touch to its guidelines seem unlikely
to open up airwaves to sleaze or evangelising nutcases.
The truth is that giving permission to escort agencies and religious
groups to advertise on TV is a much-publicised but fairly meaningless
part of a much-needed tidying up and updating of the ITC guidelines.
Indeed, there’s a case to be made that even this review doesn’t go far
The escort agency issue will be a storm in a teacup. Even assuming that
one could ever stump up enough cash for a campaign to take it from
newsagents’ top shelves and into millions of living rooms, ITC rules on
legality, decency and honesty remain firmly in place.
The same applies to religious groups which will not only find it hard to
win many converts in a 30-second spot but will be likely to run up
against resentment at their use of such an intrusive medium.
In many respects, the ITC regulations are a throwback to commercial TV’s
pioneering days of the 50s when fear of its malevolent and subversive
influence was very real.
Those fears have long been driven out as media fragments and targets a
breed of savvy and ad literate consumers who don’t want to be exposed to
indecent advertising but don’t want to be nannied either.
The result has been a much welcomed outbreak of common sense by the
What possible reason can there be for barring such products as pregnancy
testing kits and psychiatric services when the print media has long been
open to them?
But although the ITC has dragged its rules out of the 50s, it has still
to get them beyond the 70s. Advertisers may justly complain that there
is still too much rigidity and too little scope to do more ’adult’ work
beyond the 9pm watershed.
The Advertising Standards Authority, which polices print, has long been
as much concerned about where an ad appears as what it says. The
provocative Club 18-30 work was deemed unsuitable for the highly public
poster medium but OK for magazines. The ITC rules need a bit more of
that kind of flexibility.