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NZDF: Ad Standards Authority Voluntary Code A Joke

NZDF: Ad Standards Authority Voluntary Code A Joke

New Zealand Drug Foundation thinks the recommendations of the Advertising Standards Authority Review Committee to change it own voluntary code on alcohol advertising released last Friday are a joke.

Spokesperson for the Foundation, Sally Jackman said: “Maybe you could stop alcohol advertisements appealing to young people if you portrayed middle-aged people in tweeds having a beer. Research shows that linking alcohol brands and drinking to attractive young adult lifestyles influences young teenagers attitudes to alcohol and their later drinking patterns. Voluntary industry codes of advertising standards do not address the way alcohol advertising actually works.

“It is naïve to think that alcohol ads will no longer appeal to young people if as the report recommends we just make sure that ads will not “have the appearance of special appeal to minor by way of designs motifs cartoon characters of other devices that predominantly appeal to minors”. Surely the review team knows, what every parent knows and the research shows. Teenagers want to behave like cool young people over 18 which is what the ads show.

“ALAC provided the ASA Review committee with data showing showed that 26 percent of all 10-18 year olds are watching TV after 8.30, the new recommended time for alcohol advertising. Even after 10 pm, 16 percent of minors are still watching, and these ads will be marketing alcohol market to them.

“There was only one member of the review team with public health expertise. This member was Colin Tukuitonga, Director of Public Health and he has publicly protested about the recommendations. The Ministry of Health sought discontinuation of broadcast alcohol advertising at the time of the 1998 code review. Its submission to the ASA maintained this position.

“According to a letter sent to the Foundation by Jim Anderton, who is responsible for the Ministerial Committee on Drug Policy, this committee was to meet with members of the ASA before the review was completed. Our understanding is that this did not happen. Instead the Committee announced its recommendations unilaterally.

“The report recommends further research on the effects of alcohol advertising. New Zealand academics have been responsible for world leading research on the impacts of alcohol advertising. The governments of Victoria and New South Wales in Australia and of Ireland are seriously considering toughening up on alcohol advertising. The World Health Organisation is making strong statements about the rights of young people to be protected from saturation alcohol advertising.”

Submissions to the ASA/BSA review

NZDF has obtained a full set of submissions to the current review of the Advertising Standards Authority’s Code on Liquor Advertising and the Broadcasting Standards Authority’s Code on Promotion of Liquor Programme Code. Review committee findings are expected in about a month. NZDF is currently going through the submissions in detail, but our first impressions are summarised below.

A total of 74 submissions were received. Thirteen came from broadcasting and advertising organisations. Eleven came from the alcohol industry (including Lion’s lawyers and advertising agency). Six came from football organisations and Sport & Recreation NZ. The Inter-Agency Committee on Drugs, the Ministries of Health and Youth Affairs, ALAC, Manukau City and the Green Party all made submissions. The rest were from public health and community organisations, and from individuals.

Further liberalisation or an end to alcohol advertising

Broadcasting and industry submissions want fewer restrictions on alcohol advertising, finding no evidence that advertising affected either total consumption or young people’s drinking. Several argue that recent liberalisation of sale of liquor laws show moderate drinking has been ‘normalised’ and therefore alcohol advertising should be liberalised too. Submissions from public health organisations, however, provide evidence to the contrary on drinking trends and on the influence advertising has on children and teenagers (see also NZDF’s website).

NZ Television Broadcasters say that, despite being ‘the most effective medium’, television is ‘disadvantaged’ by code restrictions on its ability to sell advertising space to the alcohol industry. Radio broadcasters say radio receives less than $1 revenue a year from alcohol advertising, but provides $14 worth of free time for moderation advertising. They are willing to continue this so as long as no further restrictions were imposed.

The Ministry of Health (MoH) supports action under the National Health and National Alcohol Strategies to reduce the impact of alcohol advertising on young people. MoH cites research showing that advertising contributed to teenagers’ positive expectations of alcohol and is concerned that a significant percentage of children see televised alcohol advertising. MoH notes that health benefits from alcohol for some older people did not apply to young people.

MoH supports alcohol advertising being discontinued, but also presents other options. ALAC also thinks a ban on broadcast advertising should be considered if its effect on young people’s drinking can be established more clearly.

Changes to hours of advertising Media, advertising and industry submitters want alcohol ads from 8.30 pm (currently after 9.00); between 12.00 and 3 pm on weekdays except school or public holidays; during the main news broadcasts; and during live sports coverage, including build-up and post match programmes and playbacks within 24 hours. This would align New Zealand with Australian broadcasting classifications recommended for viewers aged 15 years and over. Several industry and media submitters think increased sex, violence and bad language at earlier hours justifies earlier alcohol advertising.

MoH, ALAC and other public health organisations oppose any further liberalisation of alcohol advertising, including hours of advertising. ALAC’s submission provides media data showing that 26% of all 10-18 year olds were watching television at 8.30-9.00 pm, 24% watched 9.00-9.30, 19 percent watched 9.30-10.00 pm; 16% watched till 10.30; 11% watched till 11 pm. ALAC proposed the hours be put back from 9.00 to 9.30. If broadcast advertising is not discontinued, MoH favours restriction until after 10.30 on week nights, with no alcohol ads on weekends or pubic holidays.

Fox designs chicken coop Submissions from the alcohol industry and from media and advertising organisations support the current self-regulation system but suggested code changes, such as amalgamating the BSA and ASA codes. Lion (and their lawyers) have rewritten the codes as a set of simpler principles, on the grounds that ‘the intention of the code is often thwarted by undue focus on guidelines’. Their version is supported by a number of other submitters, although other views and suggestions were also made. In NZDF’s view, simplified statements of principle would result in a rerun of past cases about exactly what does or does not comply.

Suggested changes include allowing alcohol ads and/or moderation ads to feature ‘heroes of the young’. This was rejected at the last review and is opposed by ALAC in this one. Another suggestion is that alcohol advertisements should be redefined to include only those ‘primarily’ advertising alcohol or only those involving payment. Alcohol companies wanted the permitted age of actors to be lowered from 25 to 23, since the drinking age had been lowered by two years.

Lion says the BSA code on incidental promotion of alcohol in programming is unworkable for local liquor company advertisers and sponsors but does not restrict ‘incidental’ coverage or sponsorship of international brands via satellite. DB wants to redefine ‘incidental promotion’ so as to allow it when it is ‘normal’ but not extensive. NZ Television Broadcasters think that minimising incidental promotion is ‘inappropriate in a society in which liquor is part of life’. They propose reducing the broadcasting code to one principle of presenting alcohol and drinking ‘in a manner which neither conflict with the principle of moderation of liquor consumption nor promotes irresponsible liquor consumption’. NZ Wines & Spirits wants programmes about alcohol production and product information so as to educate consumers.

Freedom of commercial speech Several submissions said the Bill of Rights puts current restrictions on alcohol advertising into question. Two past legal opinions were provided as attachments. The MoH submission pointed out that it was not the role of the Review Committee to considered the Bill of Rights, should they wish to recommend an end to alcohol advertising. This was a matter that, if necessary, would considered by Parliament.

Alcohol sponsorship and sport Broadcasters and advertisers want to show alcohol ads before, after and during sports coverage, outside current time restrictions on alcohol advertising. NZ Television Broadcasters say they are unable to generate profit from sports coverage without full advertising, and without alcohol sponsorship New Zealand professional sport would ‘wither and die’. DB proposes allowing ‘sponsorship advertisements’ about the sports activity to include liquor products and packaging ‘in a subordinate manner’.

Football organisations listed as sponsored by Lion Breweries all sent submissions. Sport & Recreation NZ (SRNZ) says sport and recreation organisations currently receive an estimated NZ$34 million in alcohol sponsorship – as much as SRNZ itself provides – and this is growing as sports seek to maximise their commercial potential. SRNZ describes the economic and health benefits of sport ‘which may partly accrue from sponsorship’ and finds ‘no overriding rationale for prohibiting alcohol advertising’.

However, ALAC expresses concern about alcohol sponsorship for sporting events – which may be particularly effective in reaching Maori and Pacific communities – and about televised sports programmes, together with promos.

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