Background and Context:
There is an urgent need for action to address harmful drinking patterns in Australia. A comprehensive approach to reducing harm from alcohol must address young people’s exposure to alcohol advertising, which contributes to attitudes and behaviours regarding alcohol. Australia’s self-regulatory alcohol advertising system consistently fails to ensure alcohol advertising is socially responsible and exposure to young people is minimised.
Strong, independent regulation of alcohol advertising is needed. To extend existing advocacy activity, the McCusker Centre for Action on Alcohol and Youth and Cancer Council Western Australia, with support from health organisations around Australia, established the Alcohol Advertising Review Board (AARB). A world-first advocacy initiative, the AARB provides an alternative system for alcohol advertising review.
Alternative codes and processes for reviewing alcohol advertising were developed. The Content Code uses only provisions from existing international self-regulated alcohol advertising codes. The Placement Code comprises provisions that would reasonably reduce young people’s exposure to advertising. The AARB uses media and other advocacy strategies to highlight the limitations of self-regulation, put pressure on irresponsible alcohol promoters, engage the community, and emphasise the need for independent, legislated controls on alcohol advertising.
The AARB reviews alcohol advertising complaints from the Australian community, delivering determinations free of industry influence. Determination and annual reports are published and promoted to raise awareness of the project and advocacy aims.
Outcomes/What was learned:
The AARB quickly gained the attention of the media, community, and alcohol industry. In two years of operation, it has received substantially more complaints than the self-regulatory system. Significant industry counter-activity and encouraging successes highlight the importance of national advocacy activity toward independent regulation of alcohol advertising.
The AARB provides a model independent complaint review system that may be relevant to other jurisdictions where concerns exist regarding the effectiveness of advertising self-regulation.