The promotion of lunacy 2: what are ‘prevailing community standards’?

A few weeks ago FOBIF wrote to several responsible persons/agencies complaining about car advertising which promoted unsafe and environmentally irresponsible driving. Recipients included the state Minister for road safety, the Federal Council for Automotive Industries, local MPs and the Ad Standards Bureau. We’ve had answers from Maree Edwards (a politely sympathetic letter) and the Ad Standards bureau, the federal body supervising the voluntary code of the industry.

The bureau’s letter notifies us that our complaint ‘is scheduled for submission to the Ad Standards Community Panel. A copy of it will be provided to all members of the Panel in order to help them in their determination of your complaint. We will also send a copy of your correspondence to the advertiser in question for comment. Any comments we receive from the advertiser will be submitted to the Panel for consideration together with your complaint…details of your complaint may be made available to researchers from time to time to enable Ad Standards to remain up to date on community attitudes and concerns about advertising.’

The Ad Standards community panel is the ‘centre piece of the self regulation system.’ It consists of 18 people from around the country not directly connected to the advertising industry. They’re from an interesting range of backgrounds, though none of them list ‘conservation’ as a major interest. We are assured that ‘The Community Panel discharges its responsibilities with fairness, impartiality and with a keen sense of prevailing community values in its broadest sense. Its task is often a difficult one and the outcomes of its determinations will not and cannot please everyone.’

We wait with interest to see what ‘prevailing community values in its broadest sense’ means. A cynical glance over a range of current television commercials might lead us to conclude that the community puts great value on being yelled at by trashed up celebrities urging us to buy unnecessary stuff. But we’ll avoid cynicism for the time being.

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