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LCQ16: Monitoring of advertisements in electronic media

    Following is a question by the Hon Lau Kong-wah and a written reply by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, (in the absence of the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development) in the Legislative Council today (November 7):


     Regarding complaints about the contents of advertisements, will the Government inform this Council whether it knows:

(a) the number of complaints about the contents of advertisements received last year by the relevant authorities and, among such complaints, the number of those involving advertisements in the electronic media;

(b) the time normally taken by the relevant authorities to handle the complaints, and whether they will advise the electronic media organisations concerned to discontinue the broadcast of advertisements with misleading or misrepresented information; if so, how long it usually takes to issue advice after a complaint is received; and

(c) whether advertisements in the electronic media are regularly monitored; if not, whether it is only upon receipt of complaints or reports from the public that the relevant authorities will take enforcement actions?


Madam President,

     Complaints lodged by members of the public about contents of advertisements are mainly dealt with by the Television and Entertainment Licensing Authority (TELA) and the Consumer Council.  The former is mainly responsible for advertisements in the electronic media and film-related advertisements, whereas the latter focuses on advertisements on newspapers, magazines, promotional posters, leaflets and those on the Internet and refers the advertisements concerned to the corresponding organisations.  If the advertisements involve misleading or misrepresented information, the Consumer Council will recommend the concerned organisation to take appropriate action.  Nonetheless, depending on the content and nature of the advertisements, other government departments and public bodies may also handle complaints from the public direct.

     My replies to the questions are as follows:

(a) In the past year (i.e. from October 1, 2006 to September 30, 2007), TELA handled a total of 231 complaints about the contents of advertisements, of which 151 (65%) involved advertisements in the electronic media, whereas the Consumer Council received a total of 62 complaints about the contents of advertisements, of which 9 (15%) involved advertisements in the electronic media.

(b) As the executive arm of the Broadcasting Authority (BA), TELA will conduct an investigation upon receipt of a complaint about broadcasting matters.  If the complaint does not involve complicated processes of investigation and collection of evidence, TELA will inform the complainant of the results within three to eight weeks.  For cases suspected of contravening the relevant Codes of Practice, including cases of misleading or misrepresented content of the advertisements, they will be referred to the BA and its Complaints Committee according to the Broadcasting Authority Ordinance.  The licensee concerned should be allowed to make representations while expert opinion will be sought as necessary.  In order to verify whether the advertisement contains misleading or misrepresented information, such cases may require longer processing time, usually four months.

     Before the complaint is substantiated, the BA does not have the authority to direct or advise a licensee to discontinue the broadcast of the advertisement concerned.  Nevertheless, the BA will reach the determination and inform the licensee of its decision once the advertisements are verified to contain misleading or misrepresented information and have breached the Television and Radio Codes of Practice.  Upon receipt of the notice of the BA's decision in relation to its non-compliant advertisement, the licensee will make rectification or discontinue the broadcast on its own immediately.

(c) The editorial responsibility lies with television and radio licensees. They should ensure their programmes and advertisements abide to the Code of Practice issued by the BA.  At present, some 350 channels, mostly broadcasting around the clock, are offered by the television and radio broadcasting licensees in Hong Kong.  In view of this, the BA and TELA have adopted a complaint-driven regulatory approach in regulating the broadcasting standards of the licensees.  From time to time, the BA will publicise on the various complaint avenues available to arouse public awareness.

Ends/Wednesday, November 7, 2007
Issued at HKT 14:58


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