Crackdown on advertising ineffective, say executives

NEW measures to crack down on fake or misleading advertisements are ineffective, according to Chinese advertising industry executives.

The State Administration of Industry and Commerce, which oversees the advertising industry, announced plans yesterday to establish a centralised agency to screen all print, radio and television commercials.

Furthermore, from October 1, magazines and radio and television stations will not be allowed to directly engage in advertising but will have to go through advertising agencies, which will be subject to tight controls, the China Daily said yesterday.

The new regulations were designed to break the media's hold on the advertising industry, which had prevented any effective regulations and led to a flood of misleading advertising, the official English-language newspaper said.

Television and radio stations usually have lavishly funded advertising departments which contract, produce and publish commercials without external supervision.

Despite the apparent threat to their business, television advertising executives were not concerned by the widely expected announcement.

''We already contract a lot of work out to smaller advertising companies,'' said a senior executive at a major provincial television station.

''But if they really want to put pressure on us, we can easily create another company under someone else's name and do our business through that, superficially unconnected, enterprise.'' Advertising executives conceded that the proposed centralised vetting agency might present problems to an industry used to few regulations but expressed confidence the controls could be circumvented.

''There is always a way to get the necessary approval from this kind of government organisation,'' one executive said.

The Government crackdown comes after an alarming upsurge in blatantly fraudulent advertising over the past two years.

Small provincial publications and radio stations were the worst offenders but even the national media had carried some dubious commercials, including advertisements from the now disgraced Great Wall electronics company for its infamous high-interest bondscheme.

The executives were unrepentant, however, claiming they were only saying what the companies contracting them wanted them to say.

''How do we know if these companies are telling the truth about their product,'' one executive said. ''The authorities should go after the companies that make these dodgy claims - not us.'' Industry sources say the crackdown was launched by the Communist Party's former propaganda supremo, Li Ruihuan, but that his successor, Ding Guanggen, had only just formulated the plans.

''Li Ruihuan really had it in for the advertising business but it seems Ding is not quite so bothered,'' one source said.

''As such, no one is really concerned about these new measures.''