ASA has no role in the taste test

As always, Torin Douglas provides us with a good read (MW August 23). However, his conclusions do not stand up to serious examination.

Broadly speaking, all the cases to which he refers are cases of taste and decency, and his thesis is that these cases are undermining the authority of the ASA and raising the spectre of legislative control. Not so. The reality is that, of all the areas covered by the British Code of Advertising, the taste and decency area will be the last one over which legislators would wish to assume control.

Apart from the fact that the general trend over recent years has been to back away from legislative control of this area – for example, the ending of the Lord Chamberlain’s censorship role in relation to theatre productions – experience over the years shows how extraordinarily difficult it is for the law to control issues relating to taste and decency.

Many years ago, when I worked at The Old Bailey, I saw first hand the appalling difficulties the DPP had in trying to prosecute under the Obscene Publications Act 1959. Courtrooms were turned into cinemas for days on end, so that juries could watch blue movies. And all too often the juries showed their appreciation by acquitting the defendants.

Whatever politicians may say in the unreal world of TV and radio sound bites, the deeper reality is that ministers and their civil servants would wince at the prospect of becoming involved in controlling issues of taste and decency in advertising.

Philip Circus

Legal affairs director

IPA

London SW1

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