How effective is the revised regulatory code for alcohol advertising in Australia?
Introduction and Aims. Australia, like several other countries, has a self-regulatory approach to advertising. However, in recent years the effectiveness of the regulatory system has been questioned, and there have been increasing public calls for an overhaul of the system. Following a formal review in 2003, the Ministerial Council on Drug Strategy proposed a revised Alcoholic Beverages Advertising Code (ABAC), which came into operation in 2004. Design and Methods. The purpose of the present study was to examine the effectiveness of this revised system. From May 2004 until March 2005 television and magazine advertising campaigns were monitored for alcohol products. Over this period 14 complaints against alcohol advertisements were lodged with the self-regulatory board, and the authors recruited an independent expert panel to assess the advertisements and complaints. Results. In eight of the 14 cases a majority of the judges perceived the advertisement to be in breach of the code, and in no cases did a majority perceive no breach. Conversely, however, none of the complaints were upheld by the Advertising Standards Board (ASB) and only one by the ABAC Panel. Discussion and Conclusions. The results of this study suggest that the decisions made by the ASB in relation to complaints against alcohol advertisements are not in harmony with the judgement of independent experts, and that the ASB may not be performing an adequate job of representing community standards or protecting the community from offensive or inappropriate advertisements. Further, it appears that the revisions to the ABAC code, and associated processes, have not reduced the problems associated with alcohol advertising in Australia. [Jones SC, Hall D, Munro G. How effective is the revised regulatory code for alcohol advertising in Australia? Drug Alcohol Rev 2008;27:29 - 38] Keywords: alcohol advertising; complaints process; effectiveness; regulation