LEADER: ITC overhaul is still very conservative

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.

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

enough.



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

ITC.



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.



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