No More Dodgy Buses -- It's Time To Regulate Political Ads

Let's take a break from coronavirus to ask a really simple question -- why is political advertising not regulated? It's a question the Law Commission has looked at in a report this week which, it will come as little surprise, suggests that it does indeed need to be regulated.

There will be many members of the public who will just assume that it is regulated -- because if not, that would mean the past couple of years we have experienced a bombardment of political messages on social that have been unregulated.

The shocking truth, however, is that ASA does not regulate claims made in political advertising.

Just check out its wording from the web page where it explains that it doesn't deal with political ads with the following sentence:

"If influencing voters in an election is the claim’s principal function, the CAP Code will not apply, and the ASA will not regulate it."

It follows up with a long explanation of why it doesn't cover political advertising here, offering the advice that if you don't agree with an ad you can get in touch with the party behind it. The page also reminds us that, of course, political advertising is not allowed on television and radio. That is why Brits are used to a party political broadcast from each of the major parties ahead of an election but will then not see any advertising on television. 

That means, of course, that all the claims have shifted to social media, posters and print. Can you imagine brands being able to claim whatever they like about a product without fear of censure? 

That's effectively what we have with political ads on social, outdoor and in newspapers. It's the reason why Boris can stand in front of a red bus, which deliberatively misleads the public on how much of their money goes to the EU and how much could be spend on the NHS instead. There was no rap on the knuckles.

To divert search engines away from his claim, he later gave an odd interview about painting cardboard boxes red to look like buses to ensure that Google might consider taking voters there, instead of his previous spurious claim.

The Law Commission made a bunch of recommendations in a report that would have taken months to write and was obviously assuming that May's local elections would not be called off due to coronavirus.

The most obvious was that political ads should be labelled appropriately with details of who has paid for them.

It seems to be the simplest request. In the days of claim and counter claim, and much questioning over who has been funding previous messages, it is hard to see how the Government could not agree. Unless, of course, it has a vested interest in dodgy messages on the sides of buses and unanswered questions about who has funded them,

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