Ad Standards fail prompts local council to act
Council documents stated that 'changes to the Policy are proposed to ensure the City’s planning framework reflects the particular values and needs of the local community':
Despite the Community Panel dismissing the complaints, the City’s officers acknowledge not all members of the community have the same views of what signage content may be discriminatory or offensive, or what products and services it is acceptable to advertise.
In its decision making, Council needs to balance the views of the community as a whole. In this instance, having been informed by the public reaction to the signage content, it is considered the broader community has a right to expect that signs are not discriminatory or offensive, and that there ought to be greater control of the advertising of certain products and services.
In April, the City received hundreds of community complaints about a massive suburban streetside billboard flogging subscriptions to an OnlyFans porn account. Lacking mechanisms to remove the billboard, the City directed community members who objected to the ad to lodge complaints with Ad Standards.
After reviewing the billboard, Ad Standards' Community Panel dismissed complaints, ruling that the porn billboard which gave viewers direct access to a porn site had treated 'sex, sexuality and nudity with sensitivity to the broad audience', which included children.
We thought the ruling was rubbish, so Campaigner Lyn Swanson Kennedy requested (and paid for) an independent review. But Ad Standards upheld its original decision - sidelining 350 community members who lodged formal complaints, and ignoring 6,500 community members who signed our petition to pull the billboard.
In its July 4 Council Meeting documents (see here and here), the City of Stirling noted shortcomings in the self regulated ad system and the need to bolster control over outdoor signage to protect community members from harmful ads:
Relying on the AANA Code of Ethics as the sole means to control sign content is not recommended. Other local governments in Western Australia have recognised the limitation of relying on the Code of Ethics and have made provision in their planning frameworks for increased signage content controls through the requirements for signage strategies for third party signage.
Essentially, this would require an applicant to comply with a written direction of the City in instances where, in the opinion of the City’s officers, signs contained offensive, obscene or vulgar material or which advertised services and/or products that do not meet community expectations.
The policy amendments include a clause stating that 'advertising must not contain any discriminatory, offensive, obscene or vulgar material including, but not limited to, adult-only related industries'.
We're pleased to see these new rules which will help keep public spaces porn free. We'd like to see similar by-laws introduced across all Australian cities.
Stay tuned - we'll be letting you know how you can help.