Advertising watchdog calls for official role reviewing government and election ads

ASB wants a role vetting government ads for partisan messages

ASB wants a role vetting government ads for partisan messages

The head of the Advertising Standards Bureau (ASB) has called for the watchdog to have an official role reviewing government advertising for partisanship and party messages.

With the election in full swing, Fiona Jolly, CEO of the ASB, said Australia should look at a system similar to one adopted this week in Canada which sees the government pay the advertising watchdog for a service that reviews all ads before being released.

Jolly said advertising could be particularly confusing for consumers during an election campaign where people often found it hard to distinguish between official government ads and election ads run by the parties.

The Canadian government pledged to overhaul government advertising rules in the wake of the last election and has announced Advertising Standards Canada will be paid $65,000 annually to review ads for partisan or self-serving messages. The changes will be enshrined in legislation at some point in the future.

Jolly believes Australia should adopt Canada's new review system

Jolly believes Australia should adopt Canada’s new review system

Jolly told Mumbrella the similarities between Canada and Australia meant such a system should be considered here.

“I think it is an interesting debate,” Jolly said.

“Whenever there is an election, in particular, we are always inundated with journalists asking ‘Who is looking after election ads and political advertising?’, and there is no one to do that.”

She said questions were often asked if ads appearing around an election were really public information campaigns or not.

“I think there is a role here for self-regulation to really value add in a whole range of areas.”

Jolly noted that while the ASB does judge government ads for taste and decency and other elements that fall under the ad standards code, the Federal Government did not contribute to ASB funding, unlike other major advertisers.

She said the ASB did not receive many complaints about partisanship in government ads, but added that because it did not fall under the its jurisdiction there was little reason for the public to raise their concerns with the ASB.

“I don’t really know where people go to complain about election or partisan advertising other than to their members of parliament. There’s the ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission), but even then they tend to flick it off to the ACMA (Australian Communities and Media Authority). There is just nowhere to look at that issue.”

Jolly said she believed the cost of vetting government ads in Australia would be similar to what the government pays in Canada.

“Canada is so similar in their structure of advertising and government and the self-regulatory system to Australia so In think we could use that as a comparative starting point,” she said.

Types of campaigns which could be reviewed if a system was set up in Australian could include public service announcements such as the Girls Make Your Move campaign aimed at getting girls to participate in sport, the Australian National Security office’s anti-terrorism campaign and the government’s Ideas Boom campaign.


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