Magazine article Marketing

ITC Takes to the TV Screen: Commercial TV Watchdog Plugs Its Powers with Its First Consumer Ad Campaign

Magazine article Marketing

ITC Takes to the TV Screen: Commercial TV Watchdog Plugs Its Powers with Its First Consumer Ad Campaign

Article excerpt

Commercial TV watchdog plugs its power with its first consumer ad campaign

The Independent Television Commission (ITC) this week launches its first consumer advertising campaign, designed to alert the viewing public to its role as commercial TV watchdog.

Most viewers are blissfully unaware aware that the programmes and ads that see have been pre-vetted by a regulatory. watchdog. But from January 1, 1993 that approach will end and the ITC becomes a post hoc regulator: its powers to police both programming and advertising will be limited to sanctions after the event.

The campaign, through agency Duckworth Finn Grubb Waters (DFGW), is preparing the way for a new era which relies on public awareness that a regulator exists.

Although the ITC has been operating since 1991, when it inherited the mantle of the old IBA, research has shown that much of the general public remains unaware of its existence.

This is hardly desirable, given that feedback from the general public is one of the elements the ITC considers in deciding what is and isn't acceptable. Codes of practice for nebulous concepts like taste and decency, as well as new areas like broadcast sponsorship, are not set in stone and are supposed to reflect the public's view.

"When we're a body, making decisions about the main leisure activity of 98% of the population, the least we can do is let them know we exist," says head of corporate affairs Sarah Thane.

But the campaign itself, which will run across all commercial television, including cable and satellite will not be lost on another audience - advertisers and broadcasters themselves. The message here is don't assume the new regulatory environment will be a soft touch. The ITC and the general public will be watching closely.

David Glencross, chief executive of the ITC points out that the sanctions at his disposal will be greater than ever before. "The IBA could only take licences away, a nuclear step that it never took. We will also be able to impose fines or suspend the licences of offending broadcasters."

Nevertheless, next year heralds a more hands-off approach. And with no more major licences to hand out Channel 5, the public teletext services and a number of additional commercial licences will be allocated later this year), the ITC's focus shifts clearly to its regulatory responsibilities.

The ads go on air from today (April 21) for a month, with a second burst planned in the autumn. High profile slots, including some around News at Ten will ensure that most viewers get the message - and the ITC is in the privileged position of not having to pay for media, since all commercial licences include a clause giving it access to free airtime to promote its own activities. …

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