The transcripts of the official inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the press. More…

I think if we weren't to apply the criteria as they're written, if we weren't to get the balance right, then yes, I think there would be that risk. As with all of these things, it is a question of a balance. We now resolve more cases informally than we resolve formally, but in 2010 we still formally investigated and publicly adjudicated on over 600 cases. I think the number for informal cases is over 1,000, which gives you a rough idea of the ratio between the two.

We have a responsibility to make sure that we don't unintentionally and inadvertently send a message to the advertising business that they can get away with it and just agree to provide an assurance and promise not to do it again and hope that the ASA will resolve it informally and try that time and time again, which is why one of the criterion is if there's a pattern of unwillingness or inability to comply with the code, if there have been more than a certain number of informal resolutions in the previous period, these are factors that we weigh up. We will have to weigh them up in conjunction with an assessment of how frequently the company advertises.

Of course a big advertiser producing many, many ads, spending an awful lot of money on ad space and ad airtime is of course going to attract more complaints and just the law of probability tells you is going to be subject to more problems over a period of time because of human error and so on, so we need to take that into account, but the criteria are important and if we're consistent in applying them, there ought not to be that problem.

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