The Supreme Court of India last week acknowledged and recognised The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) for its efforts towards self-regulation in advertising. The Supreme Court, in its judgment, concluded that ASCI’s current regulatory mechanism involving both statutory and self-regulatory system serves as a sufficient media content regulator and needs no interference.
Supreme Court Vindicates ASCI’s role
ASCI has been a playing an advisory role in the advertising industry for three decades now. This advisory role of ASCI has come under attack in the past when advertisers have questioned the true powers of the self-regulatory body.
According to ASCI Chairman, SK Swamy, “Advertisers who have so far challenged ASCI’s role as a self-regulatory body saying we should not be interfering and commenting on their work will now have to modify their view based on the Supreme Court’s direction.” Swamy further said that advertisers now cannot say that ASCI cannot adjudicate on their ads because the highest court in the country has now recognised ASCI’s role.
Explaining that ASCI’s role is not limited to its members alone, Swamy said that ACSI evaluates any complaint from any quarter against anybody. “Therefore if we receive a complaint against an ad from a non-member, our Consumer Complaints Council will look at it and make a decision on it. For such advertisers who felt that ASCI has no business in interfering with them, the Supreme Court judgement comes in handy because this tells the country at large that ASCI’s self-regulation is welcome and sufficient,” he added.
Self-regulation is Desirable and Sufficient
ASCI’s role is limited to self-regulation and the body cannot enforce any of its decisions on advertisers. Despite that Swamy says that the rate of compliance to ASCI’s comments and suggestions is high. “While we may not have a direct legal reach, we are under obligation to report to the government and various organisations with whom we have MoUs, like the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, The Department of Consumer Affairs, Food Safety and Standards Authority of India, and the Department of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy. These organisations are very keen on taking action on advertisers who do not follow the ASCI code,” Swamy said. As an industry, Swamy said, it is better for advertisers to follow a voluntary self-regulatory model than have someone else impose rules and regulations.
Speaking about the challenges of social media-based promotions, Swamy said that ASCI’s role cannot extend to user generated content. “But if a complaint is made against something that has appeared in social media, ACSI will deliberate on the advertisement and give its decision,” he said.