Self-regulation gets OK in EU ad arena

Kuneva gives approach thumbs up

BRUSSELS -- EU Consumer Protection Commissioner Meglena Kuneva on Thursday gave her backing to the concept of self-regulation in television and cinema advertising, saying it has proved its worth.

She said the European Commission's yearlong review of advertising self-regulation has resulted in enough commitments from the industry to ensure that no further EU regulation is needed at present.

Kuneva, who took over the consumer affairs portfolio in January, said that the advertising industry has accepted two key conditions.

"First, credible self-regulation needs to be based on a sustained openness to dialogue with interested non-business players in the process," she said, referring to non-governmental organizations such as consumer rights groups. "Second, self-regulation needs to be based on adequate monitoring and accountability of its performance and outcomes."

Effective self-regulatory responses are being increasingly encouraged by the commission to deal with such issues as binge drinking and obesity. However, commission officials warn that, though they hope to stay away from strict rulemaking in the advertising arena, they want the industry to ensure there are clear and effective sanctions for non-compliance with codes or repeat offenses.

Kuneva's remarks came as the European Advertising Standards Alliance launched its "Blue Book," a compendium for advertisers covering the codes of practice and self-regulatory systems.

"Self-regulation exists, it works and it ensures legal, decent, honest and truthful advertising that it is capable of inspiring confidence in consumers," EASA chairman Jean-Pierre Teyssier said.

There are a number of advertising rules in the Audiovisual Media Services directive, the new EU broadcasting law agreed to earlier this year. These include rules on product placement, the frequency of advertising per hour, advertising during children's programs, and advertising for tobacco and alcohol.

Separate rules are being considered for junk food advertisements. However, self-regulation is expected to police the industry and root out misleading or dubious claims as well as sexually explicit or violent advertisements.