Advertising Standards Bureau Review of Operations 2014 - Page 5

40 years of independent complaints handling in Australia In 1974 an Advertising Standards Council (ASC) was established by the Media Council of Australia (representing the media), the Advertising Federation of Australia (representing the agencies) and the Australian Association of National Advertisers (representing the advertisers). The ASC was set up as a strictly independent and autonomous complaint handling body for the advertising industry, effectively putting in place a self‑regulatory system. The procedure for complaint handling by the ASC resembled the system currently applied by the Advertising Standards Bureau. The complaint procedure included four steps beginning with a complaint screening process, moving through to seeking responses from advertisers, then to complaints consideration at a monthly meeting of the ASC, and finally to advertisers removing offending advertisements with case reports published quarterly. The ASC made its determinations based on a Code and if advertisements were found to offend, advertisers were forced to withdraw these advertisements or face expulsion from the Media Council of Australia (MCA). This initial system, while laying the foundation for the future system, was hindered by its funding structure which affected not only the autonomy of the Review of Operations 2014 ASC, but also the ability to increase awareness of the system within the industry or the public. In 1996, after the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) revoked the MCA’s accreditation system for advertising agencies, the self-regulatory system had no means of enforcing its decisions. That year the ACCC also announced a review of advertising standards and of the complaint handling body, finding indications of a lack of compliance with rulings, lack of administrative control and lack of confidence and commitment to the Codes. These issues combined, led to the collapse of the initial self-regulatory system. The current system uses a similar complaint handling process, but now advertisers voluntarily comply with the system, with complaints considered by a Board made up of community members who have no affiliation with the advertising industry or with consumer interest groups. This system has yielded an impressive 99.5 per cent average compliance rate during its 16 year history and has received Government endorsement of its effectiveness and responsiveness to community standards. In 1997, the Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA) established a new system which was up and running by 1998. 3