Further ASA response - an admission of error
Thank you for your email.
We’re sorry for any confusion or upset we’ve caused. We do accept that our first email didn’t state that you were not compelled to respond to us, though we did clarify that explicitly in our second email to you. We do try to work with – rather than against – advertisers, agencies and publishers to resolve complaints that are raised with us. We also strive to make sure that our communications are clear, so we will certainly take on board the issues you’ve raised for future investigations.
Our website statement clarifies that publishers are not compelled to respond in these cases and was published after our second email to you.
Given that our investigation is ongoing and that you are not the subject of that investigation, I will not be addressing the wider queries you have raised or corresponding further on those points. That’s because your questions go beyond your involvement in this case. However, I will clarify that although we contacted all publishers mentioned by complainants, we asked only you and one other publisher to respond on the ‘offence’ point (as distinct from the ‘misleading’ point), because complainants specifically mentioned being offended about the appearance of the ads only in those spaces. While we would welcome your views, as a publisher, on how your readership may have responded to the ads, you are not compelled to respond.
Thank you for raising your concerns with us.
Best wishesAll of which is quite interesting in the context of a report in this week's Church of England Newspaper:
Anger as official inquiry launched into marriage campaign advert
COALITION FOR MARRIAGE (C4M) will not be withdrawing an advertisement that has led to 24 complaints being made to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).
ASA has asked the Archbishop Cranmer blog, which carried the advertisement, to respond to the complaints. “We intend to deal with the complaint as a formal investigation, which means it will then be considered by the ASA Council,” the blog has been told. “We will then draft a recommendation for the Council based on your response to us. Once the Council had made a decision, the adjudication will be published on our website.”
The Conservative Home and the Guido Fawkes blogs have also carried the advert and they will also be asked to respond to complaints, according to a spokesman for ASA.
C4M says the advertisement has also appeared in national newspapers. A spokesman said the advertisement has been produced by a reputable firm and denied it is any way offensive or homophobic.
Some 24 people have complained that statement that 70 per cent of people are opposed to changing marriage is inaccurate, but C4M says this figure comes from a poll carried out by ComRes, which was commissioned by Catholic Voices.
ASA receives about 30,000 complaints a year but only a small proportion are judged worthy of formal investigation. Formal action leads to action in the case of between 2,000 and 3,000 advertisements. ASA cannot actually ban an advertisement although it can ‘name and shame’ offenders on its website and refer cases to the Office of Fair Trading.
Political Advertisements are not subject to the ASA and a spokesman for the organisation admitted it was possible that the C4M advertisement could be seen as a political advertisement at a time when same-sex marriage has become a subject of political debate.
ASA has also caused controversy by its attempt to ban advertisements for street healers in Bath. This led to a letter of complaint to ASA from members of the Parliamentary Christian group.
So, the ASA admits that His Grace was not informed that there was no compulsion to respond, and then they deflect by insisting that the statement upon their website is a reference to their second email (fisked here). But the report in the Church of England Newspaper appears to suggest that the ASA has now indeed decided to seek the opinions of Guido Fawkes and ConservativeHome on this matter. While the former (being an Irish national with a blog hosted on overseas servers) will doubtless tell them where to go, the latter will tread more carefully. The ASA has clearly shifted its approach in response to His Grace's assertion that all publishers should have been threatened and harassed equally.