The Advertising Standards Authority is in danger of being
'hijacked' by companies abusing the self-regulatory system to gain
commercial advantage over rivals, the ASA's newly appointed chairman has
The watchdog body, formed almost 40 years ago to protect the public
against dishonest and offensive advertising, now finds that almost one
in every ten complaints it handles is by one advertiser against
The situation is provoking fears that the ASA's true purpose is being
subverted and that the body's adjudication process, often attacked as
too long and laborious, is being slowed even further.
And it led to a warning at last week's annual ISBA conference , where
Lord Borrie, the ASA chairman, asked delegates: 'Is this what the ASA is
Borrie acknowledged that companies had every right to appeal to the ASA
and that industry complaints could open up issues on consumers'
But he questioned whether the number of industry-to-industry complaints
handled by the ASA was evidence of advertisers keeping their houses in
order or of the self-regulatory system being hijacked to support a
Borrie claimed industry complaints took up a disproportionate share of
the ASA's resources because they were most likely to need outside
experts to evaluate evidence or result in appeals to the ASA's
'We are doing our best to address the issue of speed,' he said. 'But as
fast as we try to speed things up there are those whose actions slow us
Meanwhile, Richard Eyre, the former ITV chief executive, poured scorn on
the so-called digital TV revolution, claiming that technology was moving
much faster than people's willingness to change their habits.
Free-to-air TV would remain a powerful medium for advertisers over the
next decade with TiVo-type technology transforming the viewing behaviour
in no more than 20 per cent of households, he said.
Eyre, who resigned from RTL, the European media giant, last month and
has been tipped as a future BBC director-general, said it did not follow
that leisure-rich people would pay to have personalised access to the
kinds of TV programmes they previously watched for free.
He told the conference that the foreseeable future would be dominated by
free-to-air TV funded by advertisers presenting and sustaining premium
brands 'to a populace whose main use of the TV set is at the end of the
day when they prefer - within reason - to relax with the broad but not
limitless choice of entertainment afforded to them by not having to make
a very great deal of effort'.