Self-reg­u­la­tion works well for al­co­hol ads, says watch­dog

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Health -

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

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