Senate inquiry: Advertising complaints system to stay

A Senate inquiry into the National Classification Scheme suggests that the current advertising complaints procedure is working.

Advertising Standards Bureau Chief Executive Officer, Ms Fiona Jolly, said she was pleased that in its report, the inquiry suggests that the current complaints procedure should remain largely in place for industries covered by a code of practice.

“I was pleased the Senators took an interest in the existing advertising complaints procedures and recognised its benefit to the community, business and the Government,” Ms Jolly said.

“As an integral part of the self-regulatory system in place in Australia, the Advertising Standards Bureau’s complaints system does not suffer the failings of the Government run and funded classification system,” she said.

Ms Jolly said the current system of complaints resolution is at no cost to individuals, community or government and the compliance rates of practically 100% do not justify any significant changes to the complaints resolution system.

“It is also important to recognise that the advertising self-regulation system meets international best practice,” she said.

"We reject the recommendation that the Classification Review Board be the final point of appeal for advertising complaints. Complaints need to be finalised in a timely manner. We have a robust and independent review process that deals with complaints quickly - adding an additional layer would cause unnecessary cost and time blow outs for community and advertisers," Ms Jolly said.

She said a recommendation to conduct another inquiry to establish the progress made by industry into the implementation of recommendations in a 2008 Sexualisation of children in the contemporary media report would be unnecessary.

“The Bureau and other advertising self-regulation bodies, have implemented a raft of changes in line with the recommendations made in 2008,” Ms Jolly said.

“As with the previous inquiry we will be happy to work with all relevant agencies and Boards in improving the advertising complaints system where it will provide a benefit to the community and to business,” Ms Jolly said. 

Other recommendations made in the inquiry report included taking on standing community assessment panels to assist in determining community standards.

“I was disappointed that this recommendation doesn’t recognise the work of the Advertising Standards Bureau in ensuring the complaints system reflects community standards. We seek community input through research and other contact and have a Board that represents the diversity of Australia’s population,” Ms Jolly said.

She said at this stage it is also unclear how some of the recommendations would apply to advertising, in particular the introduction of content assessment accreditation. 

“At first glance this could prove a huge cost to Government , the community and to business, with no discernible benefit to the community,” Ms Jolly said.

The Advertising Standards Bureau will consider the report in full.