26 February 2014

Alcohol Advertising

'Alcohol advertising: the effectiveness of current regulatory codes in addressing community concern', a draft report by the Australian National Preventive Health Agency (ANPHA), considers "all aspects and forms of alcohol advertising and marketing in Australia" in an attempt to evaluate whether current self-regulatory, co-regulatory and legislative arrangements adequately protect children and adolescents from "exposure to unsuitable content".

The draft report, for comment by late March, states that
This Draft Report is published to enable stakeholders to input into the Review of the Effectiveness of Current Regulatory Codes on alcohol advertising in addressing community concerns about harmful consumption of alcohol. 
This Review of alcohol advertising was agreed by Commonwealth, state and territory Health Ministers in the Agency’s Operational Plan 2012-13. 
An Issues Paper entitled Alcohol Advertising: The effectiveness of current regulatory codes in addressing community concerns was released at the end of 2012 with an invitation for stakeholders to present their views to the Agency. The Issues Paper and submissions are available on the Agency’s website (www.anpha.gov.au), while a list of submissions is at Appendix B of this Draft Report. The current Draft Report builds further on the research done to inform the Issues Paper and takes account of the information provided in the submissions received. 
Major national reviews (conducted in 2003 and 2009) on the effectiveness of self-regulation of alcohol advertising, under the auspices of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG), identified significant shortcomings; the implementation of these past recommendations is re-assessed in this Draft Report. 
Alcohol-related harm to people of any age remains an issue of ongoing concern for the Australian community and a challenging area for public policy response by Australian governments at all levels. The overall social and economic costs of alcohol misuse to the Australian community are estimated to be in excess of $15 billion per annum. 
As in many areas of medicine and public health, research on the harmful effects of alcohol has provided evidence of both the short-term and long-term health risks of harmful alcohol use. The National Health & Medical Research Council (NHMRC) most recently reviewed this evidence in 2009 and published revised Drinking Guidelines for Australians. These Guidelines recommend that for young Australians under the age of 18 not drinking is the safest option. The NHMRC provides further advice to parents of adolescents that delaying the age of drinking initiation, as long as possible, is important to protect the health and wellbeing of young Australians. The NHMRC’s evidence review indicates that the earlier a young person commences drinking, increases both the short-term risks of binge drinking as a young person and the lifelong risks of being a heavy or problem drinker as an adult. However, alcohol consumption among Australian adolescents remains prevalent, with about 31% of boys and 14% of girls aged 15 to 17 years exceeding the adult guidelines for single occasion risk. 
Regulators at the state and territory level have moved to address this emerging body of evidence on the risks of alcohol consumption for adolescents. The principal regulatory mechanism for controlling the supply of alcohol in Australia is state and territory liquor licensing legislation that establishes a minimum legal purchasing age for alcohol and where, when and how alcohol may be sold. Over the past decade, five State and Territory Governments (NSW, QLD, TAS, NT, and VIC), have also passed ‘secondary supply’ legislation to support parents to restrict the supply of alcohol to their adolescent children.
The ANPHA report goes on to argue that
Current regulatory arrangements on the placement of alcohol advertising are failing to sufficiently protect children and adolescents and in some cases are facilitating their exposure to alcohol advertising. On television, this exposure is largely as a result of the exemption in the CTICP for broadcast of live sporting events on weekends and public holidays. The Agency can find no public health rationale for exposing children and adolescents to significant alcohol advertising and promotion on free-to-air television, subscription television and in cinemas before 8.30pm and has made draft recommendations to these media industry bodies to amend or develop codes to this effect. 
As in prior reviews, the Agency has found that current self-regulatory arrangements for the content of alcohol advertising, while improved, are also failing to adequately protect children and adolescents from alcohol marketing which appeals to them. 
The Agency has made a draft recommendation to improve the Alcohol Beverages Advertising (and Packaging) Code [ABAC], by requesting that the ABAC Scheme Ltd seek authorisation of an improved Code and relevant Rules and Procedures from the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission to ensure that this self-regulatory scheme – controlling much of the alcohol marketing content in Australia – is subject to appropriate public scrutiny and improved transparency, and is able to access a range and hierarchy of sanctions for breach of its code of conduct. 
Another draft recommendation to improve the ABAC Code is in relation to the ABAC Scheme’s interpretation of the Code provision that alcohol advertisements “not have a strong or evident appeal to children or adolescents”; this interpretation should be reformed to exclude the current narrow interpretation of this clause. 
A number of further draft recommendations are made to improve the ABAC Code including extending its coverage to alcohol branded merchandise and alcohol sponsorships. Adolescents currently experience a significant level of exposure to alcohol advertising on digital and social media. The ABAC covers the Internet and needs to assert its coverage to make it comprehensive of any alcohol marketing communication. However, digital and social media remain an ongoing challenge for regulatory response. 
Additionally, ANPHA makes a draft recommendation to the Australian and State/Territory governments for more systematic monitoring, research, and review of, and reporting on, the effectiveness of regulatory performance in protecting children and adolescents. …  In making this assessment and these draft recommendations, the Agency is mindful that a number of recommendations from previous reviews have yet to be addressed and that this has contributed to the current inadequate regulatory framework to protect children and adolescents. Therefore, the Agency also recommends that a review of the overall regulatory system (the legislative provisions, co-regulatory instruments and self-regulatory elements) be conducted in 2016. At that time, if the system is still failing to respond, then governments should legislate for a new regulatory regime to control alcohol advertising and marketing to protect Australian children and adolescents. 
ANPHA’s draft recommendations are broken up by sector -
Free TV Australia and the free-to-air television industry: 
1 Apply to ACMA for an amendment to the Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice (CTICP) to remove the exemption for free-to-air television that allows direct advertising of alcohol products before 8.30pm as an accompaniment to live sport broadcasts on public holidays and weekends; and 
On balance, ANPHA has not drafted a recommendation to remove the current provision where alcohol products may be advertised on school days between 12 noon and 3pm but welcomes public and industry views on this matter. 
The Australian Subscription Television and Radio Association (ASTRA) and the subscription television industry; 
2 Apply to ACMA for an amendment to the Australian Subscription Television Broadcast Code of Practice to restrict direct advertising of alcohol products on subscription television before 8.30pm and after 5.00am. 
The cinema industry: 
3 Establish immediate voluntary arrangements and then work with ACMA and/or the ACCC to establish a mechanism to introduce a restriction on the direct advertising of alcohol products on-screen in cinemas before 8.30pm and after 5.00am. 
The Outdoor Media Association (OMA) and the outdoor advertising industry; 
4 Apply for ACCC authorisation of the Outdoor Media Association’s (OMA) Code of Ethics: Alcohol Advertising Guidelines to enable effective sanctions for enforcement of code decisions, particularly in relation to the placement of advertising material near schools. 
5 Amend the Outdoor Media Association’s (OMA) Code of Ethics: Alcohol Advertising Guidelines to increase the distance of advertising from schools from 150m to 500m.
On specific placement issues, for ABAC Scheme Ltd members: 
6 Review and revise the ABAC Code and Guidance documents to include and provide specific guidance on alcohol branded merchandise. 
7 Review and revise the ABAC Code and Guidance documents to include and provide specific guidance on sponsorship of sporting events. 
8 Review and revise the ABAC Code and Guidance documents to include and provide specific guidance on sponsorship of music, cultural and all other events.
ABAC Scheme Ltd members on ABAC Code, content and other matters: 
9 Seek authorisation for a revised ABAC Code and associated Rules and Procedures from the ACCC which include improvements to the code provisions as outlined in draft recommendations below. 
9.1 Appoint an independent chair to the ABAC Management Committee, who is not associated with the alcohol or marketing communications industries, thus exercising the existing option in the Scheme’s rules and procedures. 
9.2. Rationalise the two separate governance entities responsible for the Scheme, by merging the Board and the Management Committee. 
9.3 Revise ABAC Annual Report statistics to include an indication of whether advertisements that are subject to complaints and adjudication were or were not pre- vetted. 
9.4 Undertake significant effort to raise community awareness of the ABAC Scheme and report changes against the current baseline research through further independent research in 2015. 
9.5 Apply the same pre-vetting requirements to the marketing of wine products as for other alcohol products. 
9.6 Amend the ABAC Code to insert a provision which brings all forms of alcohol marketing communications under the code’s remit – including user generated content where an advertiser is able to exercise some control. 
On balance, ANPHA has not drafted a recommendation that an appeal process be instituted within the ABAC Scheme, but welcomes public and industry views on whether an independent appeal process should be established. 
9.7 Institute regular periodic monitoring of alcohol marketing, preferably yearly, and publicly report on this monitoring. 
9.8 Review and revise ABAC Code adjudication processes to enable any Adjudication Panel Member to raise any potential breach of the Code when examining a complaint irrespective of whether that matter was directly raised by the complainant. 
9.9 Revise the Code adjudication processes to ensure that the interpretation of the Code Part 1b) complies with the spirit of the Code and not a narrow interpretation of the wording: where an advertisement has strong or evident appeal to children or adolescents, then it should be found to be in breach of the Code irrespective of whether the marketing is also appealing to adults or the community generally or whether the advertisement is deemed not to be directed to children. 
9.10 Review and revise ABAC Guidance documents to reflect to the alcohol industry and marketing communication stakeholders the appropriate guidance in relation to Code Part 1b) and clarify expectations for appropriate content. 
9.11 Add new provisions to strengthen and improve clarity around the matter of appeal to children. 
At minimum, specific prohibitions are required in Part 1 in the areas of: a) identifiable heroes or heroines of the young; b) cartoon characters and animations appealing to children; c) use of childhood motifs or themes; and in Part 2, to prohibit naming and packaging which would lead to confusion with confectionary or soft drinks. 
9.12 As part of the code review, examine alternatives for an effective range and hierarchy of sanctions for enforcement of ABAC Code decisions including the options of public lists of firms breaching the code and the nature of the breach, adverse publicity orders (published corrections), financial penalties, and recalls for any products found to be in breach of the packaging and naming provisions of the code.
State and Territory Governments: 
ANPHA is considering a recommendation that States and Territories should include reporting on their regulation and enforcement issues of alcohol promotion under liquor licensing legislation in the proposed biannual reporting to COAG. 
On balance, ANPHA has not drafted a recommendation that biannual reporting on alcohol promotions be instituted, but welcomes public, industry and particularly State and Territory Government views on this matter.
The Australian and State and Territory Governments
10 Monitor, research and regularly review Australian children’s and adolescents’ continued exposure to alcohol advertising, particularly on digital media and the effectiveness of self-regulatory, co-regulatory and legislative measures to limit this exposure and report on this research every two years. 
11 Establish biennial reporting to the relevant COAG Ministerial Council (currently the Standing Council on Health) on Australian children’s and adolescents’ exposure to alcohol advertising and the effectiveness of self-regulatory, co-regulatory and legislative measures to limit this exposure.