OPINION: ITC sends out a mixed message to advertisers

’TV Ads For Escort Girls’ screamed the lead headline in Tuesday’s Daily Mail. Blimey, I’ve heard some of these girls make good money but if they can afford TV spots, even the likes of Martin Sorrell might start to think they’ve chosen the wrong career.

’TV Ads For Escort Girls’ screamed the lead headline in Tuesday’s

Daily Mail. Blimey, I’ve heard some of these girls make good money but

if they can afford TV spots, even the likes of Martin Sorrell might

start to think they’ve chosen the wrong career.



Of course, Saucy Suzy isn’t about to hire Zenith and put together a

series of commercials. One suspects this headline was another bid by the

Mail to win the hearts of those middle-Englanders who wish Queen

Victoria was still on the throne.



The real story is that the Independent Television Commission is planning

to liberalise TV advertising. This is not simply to benefit the ad sales

operations of the major broadcasters but because our TV advertising

regulations are outdated and almost certainly contravene the freedom of

speech provisions in the European Convention on Human Rights.



As a champion of consumer rights, the ITC’s decision to look at

liberalising the laws is absolutely the right thing to do, despite fears

expressed by the Mail about ads for medicine, abortion clinics and soft

porn.



Consumers are more than capable of determining the difference between an

ad for medicine and the advice they are given by their GP, and it will

still be up to those doctors to prescribe the correct drugs. One also

suspects most people can handle ads for Playboy provided they are

screened after the watershed.



How the National Viewers & Listeners’ Association can say that

advertising for soft-porn magazines, medicines and abortion clinics will

lower standards of ’honesty’ is beyond me. Surely it is more dishonest

to exclude them, effectively censoring completely legal and heavily

regulated businesses.



Harder to understand are the ITC’s proposals concerning TV sponsorship,

an ever-growing source of revenue for the TV companies’ ad sales

houses.



While it has agreed to let advertisers show pack shots - those lovely

ladies from Wella will at last be allowed to show us how they come to

have such full and bouncy locks - it has decided advertisers cannot

sponsor an individual episode from a series.



In analysing this subject (see page 9) we naturally asked the ITC to

explain this proposal. Read the explanation and see what you think but,

I have to admit, I can’t understand it. The logic seems to revolve

around ’the preservation of the editorial integrity of the programme’.

This is a noble aim but will not be achieved by restricting the

sponsorship of part of a series. The knowledge that one company is

paying a large sum to sponsor a whole TV series is more likely to

influence the programme-makers in some way, than if a number of

individual programmes have been sold to several well-suited advertisers

after the content has already been planned.



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