Who do you go to if you want to complain about a depraved or
tasteless television programme - Something for the Weekend, perhaps, or
Changing Rooms? To the Broadcasting Standards Commission, a fine group
of people who, miraculously, have not been corrupted by all the dross
they’ve watched over the years, even though they know we will be.
How about if you want to have a rant about the Independent Television
Commission and the Broadcast Advertising Clearance Centre? Hmm, that’s a
trickier one. Rant too loudly, some fear, and your next script might get
an instant thumbs down from the BACC.
Unperturbed, the advertising law firm, Lewis Silkin, recently put
together a potentially combustible seminar at which the ITC’s new
director of advertising and sponsorship, Stephen Locke, addressed an
audience of mostly agency people with a few media owners and clients
thrown in for good measure.
Historically, the ITC and agencies have been uncomfortable bedfellows -
a fact of which Locke is painfully aware as he sets his sights on
revising the advertising code of standards by next summer. He is very
keen to get everyone on board - or, in regulator-speak, to ’build links
Part of the lack of understanding lies with definitions. The ITC exists
to regulate once a commercial is on air, and the BACC vets commercials
for suitability before they go on air.
Although the BACC is interpreting ITC rules, they represent separate
fiefdoms. But for many agency people the ITC and the BACC are one and
the same: wearisome but unavoidable, inflexible and inconsistent, petty
Locke, full of the newcomer’s zeal for reform, throws some interesting
light on how the advertising code could be modernised. We need new rules
for the amount and scheduling of advertising; we need to improve the
efficiency of handling the 8,000-plus cases a year brought before the
ITC and the BACC; to end up with a code which focuses on achievements,
not prescriptive rules; to come up with a workable framework for
sponsorship credits. (Bizarrely, while consumers see sponsorship as
advertising, these don’t count as advertising minutage, nor is there
pre-vetting of sponsorship credits as there is for commercials.)
All this is fine, in the sense that we should end up with an advertising
code that is shorter, more accountable, more consistent, clearer and in
plain English - a disaster, in short, for advertising lawyers but jolly
good news for agencies and clients. The question is, where does the
money come from to improve the services offered, say, by the cumbersome
Perhaps, it was suggested, the ITC should require its licensees to cough
up more money. Codes aside, that would make a real difference.
Have your say at www.campaignlive.com on channel 4.