Self-regulation works well for alcohol ads, says watchdog
Adam Cresswell Health editor
ADVERTISING watchdogs have defended the existing system of selfregulation of alcohol promotions, claiming decisions are changing to stay in line with community attitudes.
As Family First prepares to step up its pressure for a clampdown on alcohol promotions, the Alcohol Standards Bureau, which oversees the Advertising Standards Board, released internal research in support of its contention that its decisions enjoy majority community support.
While the research did also identify some areas where the community felt the board was too lax — including sexuality and nudity, subjects and imagery often used in alcohol campaigns — the ASB said these results had been used to adjust the board’s decisions.
‘‘ We have identified a difference between what the community and board think,’’ said ASB chief executive Fiona Jolly.
‘‘ That has been rectified — the selfregulatory system has rectified the problem itself.’’
The ASB can hear complaints about alcohol advertising itself, as well as referring complaints to a separate committee to be heard against the Alcohol Beverages Advertising Code (ABAC).
But this arrangement came under attack this week in the wake of a new study that appeared to suggest the existing rules were being widely flouted.
Under the ABAC rules, advertisements must ‘‘ not depict the consumption or presence of alcohol beverages as a cause of, or contributing to the achievement of... sexual or other success’’.
It also forbids advertisers from promoting offensive behaviour or encouraging underage drinking or excessive alcohol consumption.
Family First aims to revive a bill it placed before federal parliament last year, that would place regulation of alcohol advertising in the hands of an independent agency, and prevent advertisements before a certain time of night.
The authors of the new study, published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Review (2008;27(1)29-38), reviewed TV and print alcohol advertisements for a year, and submitted written complaints over the 14 judged the worst. Seven of the 14 complaints were written by a group of lay people, in an attempt to ensure the complaints reflected widely held community standards. Continued inside - Page 21