OPINION: ASA independent reviewer welcome

Time was when companies falling foul of the Advertising Standards Authority endured their canings with gritted teeth but without much complaint.

Time was when companies falling foul of the Advertising Standards

Authority endured their canings with gritted teeth but without much

complaint.



Most still do. But an increasingly vocal minority are showing less

inclination to bend over. They are more likely to grab the cane, snap it

over their knee, hurl it in teacher’s face and rush out to find a

policeman.



More competitive markets as well as a more litigious environment are

partly to blame. But what inflames aggrieved advertisers most is the

Gilbertian procedure under which the ASA chairman hears appeals against

the decisions of his own council. Small wonder that few regard the

process as impartial or credible.



So the appointment of the former senior civil servant, Sir John Caines,

independently to review contested ASA decisions, has come not a moment

too soon. Until now, the ASA has been fortunate to find the judges on

its side each time its procedures come under High Court scrutiny. But

its luck may not hold, particularly if the incorporation of the European

Convention of Human Rights into UK law results in more legal

disputes.



Not only should a neutral outsider be able to keep down temperatures and

legal bills, but preserve self-regulation from what was becoming a

potent threat to it.



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