Trade media in South Africa report that the self-regulatory Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is in a ‘perilous’ financial position and will cease to operate within 45 days unless the funding is found. The collapse of the ASA would set a dangerous precedent internationally and fuel argument for Government regulation.
The ASA has a proud 47-year history being founded in 1968. It was an early international member of the European Advertising Standards Alliance (EASA) having joined in 1982. Its codes are based on the ICC Code of Advertising Practice and it has a complaints system where consumers can complain about breaches of the codes and have their complaints dealt with by an independent adjudication body.
On the face of it the ASA complied with the EASA 10 Principles of Best Practice Advertising Standards. However it appears that it has failed to comply with the Second Principle – Sustained and Effective Funding.
There has been discussion in the South African trade media about the ASA over the past few years. In 2012 there was considerable discussion with discord between the ASA and various industry members. Allegations included:
– Lack of transparency by the ASA regarding its budget and financial position
– In 2011 there was criticism of the funding model and a warning of a ‘pending crisis’
– The withdrawal of some key funders
– A ballooning ASA budget
– Slow turnaround of complaints
– The refusal of the ASA to process complaints about Government advertisements
– The ASA was becoming the ‘Mugabe of Marketing, with idiotic rules, iron fists and no money’
– ‘Lobbyists brazenly manipulating the ASA ‘by lodging multiple complaints to further their campaigns’.
– The codes were outdated
These issues will be familiar to self-regulatory organisations (SROs) especially when they are under stress. Successful SROs deal with the issues swiftly and remedy any perceived problems.
Urgent negotiations are now underway to resolve the funding crisis and no doubt the other issues will need to be resolved at the same time.