The key player in UK advertising regulation calls for political ad reform

In today’s Guardian the CEO of the UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) announced his organisation’s support for the idea that “claims in political advertising should be regulated”.

Guy Parker and the ASA have also offered their expertise and support in changing rules around election and referendum advertising.

This is a big moment for our campaign to reform political advertising. The Coalition for Reform in Political Advertising is a small, not for profit, non-partisan campaign run by unpaid volunteers (of which I am one) and is supported by a collective of individuals, companies, campaign organisations and political parties.

To get the support of the organisation that runs advertising regulation in the UK is a major step towards the political establishment making long overdue changes to rules surrounding political advertising.

Here’s the Coalition for Reform in Political Advertising’s statement in response to the announcement:

First, we should acknowledge and respect that some events are so shocking that they prevent consideration of just about any others. They stop you in your routine tracks, command most of your thoughts and lead you to wonder if we have made any progress at all in how we behave towards each other. So this intrusion is made with deference to those events and to the people directly or indirectly affected by them.

You might reasonably think, therefore, that introducing the issue of reform of political advertising feels a little like advertising itself: a not-always-welcome interruption of subjects that are of more interest or import. On the other hand, you might also respect, as most do, that advertising is both commercially essential and that it can and does play a significant and positive role in society.

Our topic, however, is not any old advertising – it’s political advertising, or to be more precise, political advertising that has, often famously, played a role in the election of governments or our departure from Europe. To those who are unaware, this form of advertising remains unregulated and it has been the mission of the Coalition for Reform in Political Advertising for the past several years to change that unhappy and almost ridiculous situation.

That is why we welcome with all the warmth we can muster in these socially cold times the article in today’s Guardian from Guy Parker, the CEO of the Advertising Standards Authority, who states the ASA are ‘ready to help.’ At last, an important head above the parapet and while we respect that the ASA may not be ‘the right body to lead political advertising regulation’, neither would the task be properly delivered without their skills, experience and reputation.

We share the view that delivering a solution is ‘challenging’, but the real challenge is not lack of expertise, as Guy Parker points out, but the political will to listen to the 87% of voters who think that electoral advertising, as with any other, should be subject to regulation.

The advertising of a bar of chocolate is subject to three laws and several codes of conduct; political advertising has more consequence, but the liberties that it takes as a result of the liberties provided leave a bitter taste for the great majority and cause profound offense to many.

We applaud Guy Parker and the ASA he leads for this significant contribution to long overdue reform in political advertising.

The Coalition For Reform In Political Advertising

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