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Govt urges Asci to improve self-regulatory mechanism

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NEW DELHI: The Government today asked the Advertising Standards Council of India (Asci) to improve the self-regulatory mechanism by speeding up the processes and compliance of its codes for advertising content.

Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni urged Asci to specifically review consumer complaints on misleading advertisements, thus making the self-regulation machinery more effective.

"Self regulation is an evolving system in response to the growing aspirations of the consumer or the common man. Advertising is the principle motivator of growth in consumer demand, thus making the role of a creative person extremely significant. The current self-regulation mechanism has evolved as a result of the concern shown by the consumer. The key intention here is that all of us should sensitise ourselves to ensure that 1.2 billion people can enjoy the freedom entrusted to us," Soni said.

 

Soni felt that public good would be served better if self regulation was put in place at the content generation stage. She wanted the various bodies in the broadcast sector which had adopted self-regulatory mechanisms to increase their base by enrolling more members who accept the mechanism. This would ensure the proactive and effective participation of smaller players in the sector and also reflect the true status of the broadcasting sector. This would make self regulation responsive to the needs of the consumers.

She said it is critical for every stakeholder in the industry to work with sensitivity towards the hopes and aspirations of the people. Self Regulation as a process needed to be in a state of constant evolution so as to address critical concerns that arose from time to time. Advertising needed to be sensitive to the socio-cultural requirements of society especially women, children, disadvantaged and marginalized communities, and ‘commodification’ needed to be prevented since advertisements influenced social behavior.

The Minister also expressed concern at the rising number of complaints received by Asci this year as compared to last year. She mentioned that against 190 advertisements, 777 complaints had been received this year as against 200 complaints received vis-?-vis 159 advertisements last year.

Minister of State for Food, Consumer Affairs & Public Distribution KV Thomas said in his address that the ministry is reviewing consumer complaints on misleading advertisements and debating how to manage this issue. "In this process, we are considering a legal requirement as well as an inter-ministerial committee to look into the issue of misleading and false advertisements," Thomas said.

Appreciating the work being done by Asci in self-regulation, he said "We are open to working with Asci for a collaborative effort to take this entire matter forward."

Asci chairman I Venkat gave an update about the various initiatives undertaken by the council in recent days. He said, "As part of our evolving self-regulatory system, we have increased the frequency of our Consumer Complaints Council‘s meetings to twice a month from this month. The fast track service announced recently has already received positive response. The CCC has already reviewed eight advertisements until now under the fast track system. The support we expect from Government will ensure that Asci continue to create global standards and international benchmarks in self-regulation of advertising content."

The Conference also comprised three technical sessions to discuss issues and solutions related to decency in advertising, honesty and truthfulness in advertising, and food and beverage advertising. Each interactive session had speakers representing industry, regulators and activists and was moderated by TV anchors with expertise in the field of advertising.

It was pointed out that there are several laws regulating the content of advertisements in the country and the consumers are protected from misleading and deceptive advertisements through the enforcement of such laws.

At the same time, the initiative taken by the advertisers, advertising agencies, media and other concerned parties to impose self regulation on themselves through a voluntary code of conduct on the content of advertisements had resulted in institutionalising a robust self regulatory mechanism under the Asci umbrella in its 26 years of service to the consumers and the advertising sector. It has not only addressed the issue of promptly resolving intra-company disputes on the content of advertisements but also taken action on individual complaints on advertisements raised by citizens and aware consumers.

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