Ofcom is the independent regulator of television, radio, telecommunications and wireless communications services in the UK. Part of our role is to set standards for television advertising.
All television broadcasters must comply with these standards in relation to any advertising they transmit. In late 2004 we transferred the responsibility for the Television Advertising Standards Code to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), including the functions of complaints handling and code policy development. However, under this co-regulatory scheme Ofcom still retains ultimate responsibility for all television advertising standards as the backstop regulator under the terms of the Communications Act 2003 (‘the Act’). In particular, Ofcom retains direct responsibility for advertising scheduling policy.
The relevant objectives to be secured by these standards include protecting under 18’s, and preventing the inclusion of harmful advertising and unsuitable sponsorship. Ofcom also has a number of other duties which it must take into account including to further the interests of citizens and consumers, to maintain a sufficient plurality of providers of different television services and to secure the availability of a wide range of television services of high quality and calculated to appeal to a variety of tastes and interests. In performing these duties Ofcom must have regard, amongst other things, to the vulnerability of children and to the degree of harm and offence likely to be caused by the inclusion of any sort of material, and the likely size and composition of the audience. In imposing regulatory measures Ofcom has to act in a proportionate and targeted manner.
As well as setting standards to secure these objectives, the Act permits Ofcom to set standards which prohibit certain advertisements and forms and methods of advertising or sponsorship.