Advertisers poised to accept limits on freedom of speech

Europe’s advertisers were warned this week that they might have to accept restrictions on what they can say in return for the freedom to utter it.

Europe’s advertisers were warned this week that they might have to

accept restrictions on what they can say in return for the freedom to

utter it.



The prospect of a possible trade-off was raised by Lionel Stanbrook,

deputy director-general of the Advertising Association. He told a London

conference on advertising law: ’It’s a compromise, I know, and not a

particularly attractive one - but few compromises are.’



He claimed a trade-off might be necessary because of national laws which

continued to hamper the EU’s declared intention of free movement of

media and marketing across the European Community.



His suggestion comes as advertising lobbyists continue to press for the

removal of restrictions on alcohol and toy advertising by France and

Greece respectively and an end to Sweden’s ban on TV advertising to

children.



But Stanbrook suggested the only way forward was for a balance to be

struck between freedom of communication and the need for high standards

of consumer protection.



Such a deal could mean that the freedom to advertise any legally sold

product or service would be guaranteed, subject to self-regulation,

which may involve consumer representation on watchdog bodies.



’Certain agreed formal limits on commercial content could then be

contemplated, as these would not pose such a large barrier to trade as

the complete denial of access,’ Stanbrook added.



But he claimed the agreement could only work with a credible

cross-border system of self-regulation in place.



’If the industry does not rise to this challenge, the Commission might

force it on the industry in terms of its structure and financing,’ he

said.



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