Tory MPs have called for the resignation of Lord Rodgers, the chairman
of the Advertising Standards Authority, in a dramatic escalation of the
row over the ASA’s recent rulings on political ads.
The call, which was made publicly by Michael Fabricant, the deputy
chairman of the party’s back-bench media committee, follows a speech by
Rodgers at a fringe meeting during the Liberal Democrats’ conference at
Brighton this week. Rodgers, a Lib Dem peer, urged people to vote
Labour, if necessary, in a tactical bid to oust the Tories at the
Tory bosses, already furious with the ASA after three recent rulings
against the party, accused Rodgers of political bias. Fabricant said:
‘By announcing his political bias, Bill Rodgers has put the ASA’s
rulings in grave doubt. For the sake of the ASA’s future credibility,
Bill Rodgers and the ASA should consider whether he is suitable
to continue as chairman.’
In the past month, the ASA has ordered the Tories not to re-run the ad
showing Tony Blair with ‘demon eyes’ but rejected counter-complaints
from a local Tory activist about the Labour campaign accusing the
Conservatives of telling lies.
The ASA dismissed the Tory attack. Caroline Crawford, the communications
director, said: ‘Lord Rodgers’ role as a Lib Dem peer is completely
separate from his role as ASA chairman. It is an apolitical role. It is
crucial we are seen to be independent of government and the political
parties as well as from the industry.’
The controversy comes in the same week that Rodgers called a ‘clear the
air’ meeting of advertising trade bodies in an attempt to stem the
rising tide of criticism of the watchdog body.
It was decided to re-examine the ASA’s rules on political advertising as
part of the next review of the advertising code of practice.
Live issue, p12