PERSPECTIVE: Effective control over TV ads will only come from self-regulation

First off, I think we should all applaud the Advertising Association's attempt to end once and for all the mess that governs the UK system of advertising regulation. As we report on this week's front page, it has submitted plans for broadcast advertising to be controlled on the same self-regulatory basis as press and posters. About bloody time.

First off, I think we should all applaud the Advertising Association's attempt to end once and for all the mess that governs the UK system of advertising regulation. As we report on this week's front page, it has submitted plans for broadcast advertising to be controlled on the same self-regulatory basis as press and posters. About bloody time.

I could count on the fingers of a mitten the reasons for leaving the present system of statutory controls run by the Independent Television Commission and Radio Authority unchanged. Meanwhile, there are several reasons for scrapping it.

First, convergence. As the telecommunications, computer, media and electronics industries begin speaking the same digital language, it is ridiculous to have regulators looking at all the delivery systems as if they were divorced from each other.

Second, while the Government openly supports the principle of self-regulation, it has not yet applied it to broadcast advertising.

Third, consider the fact that, unless changed, the system will continue to throw up ridiculous anomalies. There was the ruling last week by the Broadcasting Standards Commission that a TV spot for Typhoo Tea by Mother, featuring Indian tea plantation workers, encouraged racial stereotyping.

A similar complaint was rejected by the ITC in July. And a few years ago, the Broadcasting Standards Council (now the Commission) said Howell Henry's AA ad was 'unacceptably sexist' despite the fact that both the Broadcast Advertising Clearance Centre and the Independent Television Commission, the two bodies that actually had the power to take the ad off air, had already cleared it. The commercial showed a woman in a car park whose car had broken down being hassled by a male car-park attendant. Sexist? Well, yes, his behaviour was undeniably sexist.

But the point of the ad was to condemn, not condone, such behaviour. The eight council members of the BSC, the usual bunch of quango fodder and the great and the good, just didn't get the point. A more flexible system in the hands of the industry is the answer.

Finally, some impulse, probably fear at the enormity of the task ahead, draws me to make the point that 2000 is proving to be something of a tricky year if you happen to be an agency with your heart set on world domination.

All right, not world domination, but creative agency, media agency, campaign etc of the year from Campaign. The only candidates, as far as I can see, are WCRS, Initiative and BT. Only kidding. It's BDDH, Optimedia and Magnum. Got you again, didn't I? OK, facetiousness aside, this is to give formal notice that we are about to start the very serious business of compiling our most eagerly awaited issue of the year. There will be a winner in every category and, as ever, our aim is to produce a list of winners that has credibility and respect.

caroline.marshall@haynet.com.