Regulation of charity advertising

The Advertising Standards Authority is reviewing its approach to regulating charity adverts, whereby charities are given more leeway to use sensitive and upsetting content, in response to public concern about messages from charities.

The ASA has typically viewed charity and public service advertisements more leniently than commercial advertisers in acknowledgement of the difficult issues they seek to highlight. However, a report on harm and offence produced by the ASA found more distress at charity ads than the regulator expected.

Checks and balances on assessing complaints about charity adverts will now be increased, and the ASA will run complaints past its council. The regulator is also now compiling complaints data for the past three years and is to meet with charities and advertisers on the harm and offence research.

In its annual report this year, the ASA found there had been a spike in the number of public complaints regarding charity and public service ads. According to the Fundraising Standards Board's own annual data on fundraising complaints, some 4.5 billion television adverts views prompted 209 complaints in 2012/13.

The ASA intends to release a decision on its regulation of charity adverts in six months' time, having completed the review.