ASA accused over 'faked' advert in New Statesman

By Alyson Fixter Advertising watchdog the ASA has been accused of
“collusion” with the nuclear power industry over a faked photograph
that appeared in an ad in the New Statesman and other magazines.

MP
Colin Challen, chair of Parliament’s all-party group on climate change,
has challenged the head of the Advertising Standards Authority, Lord
Borrie, to defend his approval of an advert from the British Nuclear
Group (BNG). Challen says the ad suggested that Berkeley nuclear power
station in Gloucestershire had been decommissioned and had become a
greenfield site.

The advert showed two old photos of Berkeley and a third electronically manipulated picture of the “decommissioned”

plant. The ad did not state that this picture had been altered to show mature trees growing.

Challen’s
original complaint against the BNG was rejected by the ASA. He claims
he later discovered that the watchdog had discussed the ad with the
company prior to publication, although it had failed to inform Challen
of this in its adjudication.

In a letter to Lord Borrie, Challen
said: “It seems that the Advertising Standards Authority accepts lower
standards from BNFL in promoting the nuclear industry than retailers
are permitted in selling food.”

The watchdog had refused to
disclose the original advice given to BNG on grounds of confidentiality
and said it would not consider producing guidelines for the use of
manipulated images,” he added.

Lord Borrie said he preferred to “consider individual advertisements in context and on their own merits”.

In
his letter to Lord Borrie, Challen said: “When you see the contents of
a food can or packet displayed on the packaging with the words ‘serving
suggestion’ you know that you are not necessarily buying a whole meal,
but just part of it. Where that context is created, appropriate words
are added so that the description does not breach the Trades
Descriptions Act. It would appear that none of these basic legal and
safety precautions apply to ads for the nuclear industry.

“The
combined effect of the photo and the advert’s strapline was very
misleading. Basically, the ASA is now saying that a fake picture –
which can speak a thousand words – is OK.”

An ASA spokeswoman
said: “BNG’s advertisement featured three pictures used to demonstrate
the different stages of the decommissioning process. The council
considered that the headlines, “past”, “present” and “future” used next
to each picture would convey the concept that the decommissioning was
yet to be completed and that anyone viewing the ad would be likely to
understand this.”

She added that the ASA did not give advice to
advertisers, and that the Committee of Advertising Practice (which was
the body approached by the BNG prior to the ad’s publication) was
“separate and independent” of the ASA.

New Statesman publisher
Spencer Neal said: “It’s the publisher’s job to ensure that readers
aren’t abused, but this seems pretty straightforward. We abide by the
decisions and guidelines set out by the ASA.”

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