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Co-regulation of broadcast advertising

In November 2004, the ASA assumed responsibility for maintaining standards for broadcast advertising in the UK.

Prior to this, regulation of non-broadcast advertising was conducted by the self-regulatory CAP/ASA system and broadcast advertising was regulated separately by a statutory regulator, Ofcom. This change simplified regulation for consumers and business and meant that, for the first time, decisions about ad campaigns running across several media platforms e.g. TV, poster and radio, were made by a single organisation.

There is a statutory duty placed on Ofcom to maintain standards in broadcast advertising. However, better regulation principles that were included in the Communications Act 2003 placed a duty upon Ofcom to pursue alternative forms of regulation where practical. Ofcom took advantage of this provision and established a co-regulatory partnership with the ASA in 2004.

In practice, this means that the ASA system is responsible on a day-to-day basis for broadcast advertising content standards. The Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP) is responsible for writing and maintaining the UK Code of Broadcast Advertising, but Ofcom retains overall sign-off on major changes to the Code. The ASA is responsible for administering the Code, but is able to refer broadcasters to Ofcom for further action, if needed. This is extremely rare.

Read more about BCAP.

The system has been described as self-regulation within a co-regulatory framework. It is underpinned by an enabling statutory instrument, The Contracting Out (Functions Relating to Broadcast Advertising) and Specification of Relevant Functions Order 2004 and a formal Deed between Ofcom and the ASA (Broadcast), BCAP and Basbof.

The arrangement is monitored against clear reporting obligations and key performance indicators.

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