Between the Lines: Smith can handle ad politics

Chris Smith's appointment as the chairman of the Advertising Standards Authority is testimony to how changing times and attitudes have influenced self-regulation (page 2).

Not long ago, its abolition in favour of statutory controls was a Labour article of faith. It is a measure of its volte face that a former Labour minister should be in charge of the body that polices that system. Equally odd is that while the ASA was once the bete noir of Labour politicians and pressure groups, views about it have turned full circle. So much so that the most virulent criticisms of the ASA now tend to come from advertisers and agencies rather than outsiders.

As the culture secretary, Smith won friends in adland through his engaging views on self-regulation. Moreover, he has the vital political connections.

This is just as well because there are big issues ahead, particularly on how the ASA regulates an internet where the line between ads and editorial grows increasingly blurred. Leaning on media owners not to accept rogue ads is no longer sufficient.