The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI), which currently has no authority to compel the advertising community to comply with its decisions, may soon get more teeth.
A committee formed under the ministry of information and broadcasting has recommended that the ASCI code be included in the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act 1995.
ASCI board member, Bharat Patel said, "If and when the ministry gives its final go-ahead, the implication would be on television only. It would mean that a violation of the ASCI code will be seen as a violation of the Cable TV Regulation Act.
That is, if a complaint against an advertisement is upheld by ASCI, and the same advertisement continues to be aired on a channel without complying with the ASCI ruling, asking for withdrawal or modification, it would be deemed as a violation of the law".
Currently, rule 7(9) of the Cable Television Network Rules 1994, prescribed under section 6 of the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act 1995, states that "no advertisement, which violates the standards of practice for advertising agencies as approved by the Advertising Agencies Association of India, Bombay, from time to time shall be carried in the cable service".
Members of ASCI however, brought it to the notice of the I&B ministry that the Advertising Agencies Association of India (AAAI) does not have a specified code of standards.
A committee under the I&B ministry has now recommended that AAAI, as mentioned in the cable television act should be replaced by ASCI. When contacted, AAAI officials said, they have informed the ministry that they have no objection to this move.
ASCI is a voluntary self-regulatory organisation of the -industry. It deals with complaints received from consumers and industry against advertisements that are considered as false, misleading, indecent, illegal, leading to unsafe practices or unfair to competition, and consequently in contravention to its code. The ASCI code applies to advertisers, advertising agencies and the media.
However, ASCI currently does not have any authority, legal or otherwise, to compel anyone to comply with its decisions. It can only reason with and persuade advertisers to withdraw or modify an offensive advertisement.
Despite this, out of the 103 complaints upheld by ASCI in the 2004-05 period, its decisions were complied with in 73 cases.