It’s no secret that South Africa’s Advertising Standards Authority has been battling on many fronts to stay alive and relevant in a media terrain where change is a constant.
In fact, in February 2015, the ASA sent a letter to the Association for Communication and Advertising (ACA), which then sent it on to its members, in which it outlined the its “perilous” financial situation, which was so serious the ASA faced liquidation.
At the time, it said that “a professional, self-regulation body, with the mandate and responsibility of the ASA, cannot function on the operating capital currently provided by our funders”. The situation wasn’t “conjecture, but a carefully considered analysis combined with years of empirical evidence”. The ACA and ASA needed to engage with stakeholders urgently to find some resolution to the crisis.
Fast forward a year to a joint statement issued last week by the ASA and the ACA in the name of the ACA’s Boniswa Pezisa.
In it, Pezisa admitted to “challenges” regarding its finances, but said a task team comprising representatives from industry bodies including the ACA, the Broadcast Research Council (BRC), the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) and the Marketing Association of South Africa (MASA), was set up in June last year.
Task team set up
“The task team was set up by core stakeholders to give attention to the operational challenges experienced by the ASA,” she told The Media Online. “Part of the mandate was also to intentionally understand the challenges of self-regulation in the communications industry.”
Pezisa said the four-man team proposed to the ASA’s funders that they looked into operations, funding and how the executive functions. In conducting a thorough operational overview, the team decided that in line with global best practice, it would be a good idea to consult with a top firm and as such, brought in KPMG to review the organisation.
At the same time, it had to ensure the ASA had enough funding to operate in 2015.
Earlier this month, the task team hosted its first workshop that would ultimately result in a “clear strategy and feasible funding model” to secure the ASA’s future. The workshop team reported back that there were three main areas that needed urgent attention.
The ASA should be “fit for purpose”, and its operational model “tailored to deliver the best service to the public through optimal management of its resources”. It should have equitable and sustainable funding via a fair funding model that would ensure an equitable contribution by all members; and finally, it should have “strengthened jurisdiction” with a focus on “widening the signatories to the ASA Code toward limiting litigation and securing accreditation of the ASA by the National Consumer Commission to further widen its jurisdiction”.
Another workshop is scheduled to take place today (17 March 2016). “We need to finalise a turnaround plan by the end of this month,” Pezisa said. “At the second workshop, representatives from the key stakeholders will draft the turnaround plan and its action points”.
“And that plan must be implemented within the next 12 months. We have to establish the milestones and actions we need to take to ensure a stable footing for the ASA,” she said, adding that the task team had a “short-term life span”.
Pezisa said that while the media environment was experiencing “lots of changes, the principles of self-regulation had to be updated to keep pace”.
The ASA has come under fire over the past few years on a number of fronts. It has been accused of operating with a lack of transparency over its budget and its financial position, and of being used as a tool for disgruntled marketers to use to settle scores cheaply, as well as failing to communicate effectively with stakeholders.
Funding has been a major issue. At the heart of the dispute was the collection of levies, the transparency of the system used, the amount each organisation pays, and how the money is distributed.
Read the full ASA/ACA statement: Joint Statement Of The ASA Industry Task Team_ASA Funding and Operational Review
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