- Leaders of Britain's advertising industry are planning to seize back control of the self regulatory system and cut back the influential role of the Advertising Standards Authority.
They want the power to revert to a strengthened Advertising Standards Board of Finance, the ASA's paymaster, whose executive director would become the industry's collective mouthpiece.
Andrew Brown, the Advertising Association's director general, along with Nick Phillips and John Hooper, his counterparts at the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising and the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers, are behind the idea which could be implemented before the end of the year.
It follows growing concern within industry trade bodies that the ASA's power and influence has been allowed to extend well beyond its original remit as a regulatory body.
While ASBOF and the Committee of Advertising Practice, which sets the advertising rules, are virtually anonymous, the ASA has moved increasingly into the spotlight. It has a line into Government ministers and is usually turned to by journalists and broadcasters as the industry's representative.
Now industry chiefs claim the time has come to re-establish their authority over the self-regulatory system in the face of potential threats to it either from the UK Government or from Brussels.
The result would be that the ASA returns to the role originally intended for it as the enforcer of the CAP's codes.
ASBOF, which represents most of the industry's important bodies and raises funding for the ASA through a levy on advertising, would take a wider-ranging and much more public role.
"The problem is one of branding," an industry insider explained. "While the CAP will never be taken seriously because of its name, the ASA has a sexy title. So it's hardly surprising that this is the body the Government wants to talk to."
Hooper insisted the move implied no criticism of the ASA. "It has done a sterling job filling the vacuum that we've created," he said. "But we feel the time has come to restore the balance. The ASA may be the bull terrier -- but we hold its lead."