Thursday, 1 June, 2023

Advertising Standards

As advertising occupies a considerable aspect of the mass media, its impact on the public sphere is significant. Therefore, it should be governed as an important part of the media through government policies and regulations so that it can take its intended messages to the audience in a healthy manner. As advertisements get published along with news, opinions and editorials in different sectors of the media including the print, broadcasts and online mediums, advertisers not only have to be effective communicators, but also responsible and sensitive to the wider sentiments of the masses as well as the policies and the law of the land. However, any policies and regulations governing this sector should not abruptly come out of the bureaucrat’s table and put into implementation. We live in a democratic environment where government policies and regulations are formed with the participation of concerned stakeholders. If the relevant actors are left out in this process, the outcome may lack true ownership of the stakeholders.

It is in this respect that government officials, representatives of advertising agencies, federation of journalists, umbrella organisation of businessmen and industrialists, radio broadcasters, the Press Council and representatives of media houses have been involved in the formulation of the code of conduct for advertising. A meeting of stakeholders was held in the capital the other day to deliberate on the draft of the advertising code of conduct. Different aspects of the draft need to be discussed in different rounds and levels before the document is given a final shape and implemented. Advertisements are meant to the public audience to provide information about various products, services and public awareness messages. In absence of proper guidelines, code of ethics, rules and regulations these messages may sometimes mislead the people and cause unintended repercussions.

In this regard, formulation and implementation of advertising code of conduct and regulation is necessary. In the latest stakeholders’ discussion held the other day, Minister for Communication and Information Technology Gyanendra Bahadur Karki pointed out that advertisers should refrain from using language and expressions that may mislead the public. False promises and claims may draw the attention of customers, consumers and clients for some time but ultimately, such tendency will harm both sides — the advertisers and the audience.  Policies and regulations governing the advertisement sector should come into execution as soon as possible in order to control potential irregularities, drawbacks and anomalies. But the new rules and code of conduct should not be finalised in a half-baked form. It requires extensive deliberations and brainstorming to prepare a document that entails maturity, vision and foresight.

Clean feed approach, welfare ads, proportional and fair distribution are some of the concepts making rounds in the new ad policy but wider and prompt circulation of concerned news media is the main pre-requisite for effective outreach of the anticipated messages to the public. Moreover, the emergence of the online media makes us rethink and reframe the advertising policy in the whole new dimension. Brand new technological expertise is called for to govern this sector in order to ensure security, decency and privacy and to check the tendency of revenue leakage. In this respect, Minister Karki has stressed fair and decent advertising and urged all concerned to abide by concerned rules and regulations.