I am so pleased to be able to talk to both of you about the role you two have played in the evolution of organizations designed to regulate advertising messages, protecting speech as well as the public. May I ask you to begin by just telling the story of how you got involved in this work?
I first got involved in advertising regulation issues when I was working for the ITV trade association in the 1980s—from 1983 to 1987. That was at a time when there was a lot of interest at the European level in advertising and consumer protection issues and also in the development of media generally. Satellite broadcasting was just starting, so there was a lot of concern around trans-frontier television and how this would impact regulation. Also at that time, advertising was particularly in focus because that was the most highly regulated part of the media at the European level via the Misleading Advertising Directive.
The industry was already collaborating to look at how they could influence the course of legislation and also how they could coordinate what they were doing from a self-regulatory point of view. But it was tentative and a little bit sectoral at that time. The media were doing one thing, the advertisers were doing another thing, the agencies another.
Several organisations coordinated those interests. The Advertising Association in the United Kingdom was one. There were several other tripartite organisations like the AA, which brought together the interests of media and agencies with the advertisers (for example, in Germany and Austria), but at least half a dozen others too, which were members of a coordinating body called the Advertising Information Group. In parallel, the European trade associations representing media, advertisers, and agencies were members of another coordinating body called the European Advertising Tripartite. Together EAT and AIG represented the industry and started the discussions about how to coordinate all the national self-regulatory organisations, such as the ASA in the UK.
After the ITV, I then worked for the Advertising Association as Head of European Affairs. I had had a baby in between leaving ITV and joining the Advertising Association. There was, by this time, a lot of pressure on advertising from a policy point of view. They were starting with regulating, but eventually banning, tobacco advertising. The whole domino theory of “if you ban tobacco advertising, alcohol will be next” was emerging. I remained at the Advertising Association until 1991. During that period, Richard joined as the Director General. But while I was there, one of the things that struck me was that the publishers (that is, the newspaper and magazine publishers) were absent from the whole debate about freedom of expression, freedom to advertise in Europe. The publishers were absent in a way that the TV companies were not. The television people were completely on top of this issue. And so one of the things I did was to try and engage, in a more constructive manner, the publishers. In 1991, that effort led to the formation of the European Publishers Council, which I was subsequently invited to run
Today, I’m still the Executive Director of the European Publishers Council. This council is a high-level lobby group of chairmen and chief executives of leading European multimedia corporations whose business interests span newspapers, magazines, online database publishing, scientific, technical, medical journal publishing, and book publishing. Many of these companies also have commercial interests in private television and radio broadcasting. So it’s genuinely a multimedia organisation. It sits outside the main trade associations because it’s not formally constituted, as opposed to the European federations, which represent the national federations (that is, the national trade associations). The EPC has high-level engagement at the chief executive level right through the business strategy people, the marketing people, the legal people, and public affairs people.
So, I’ve been involved in the self-regulation of advertising for a long time. The EPC, as it’s called in short form, has developed enormously from the organisation it...