Speech to the Advertising Standards Authority Summit

  • Hon Clare Curran


It’s a pleasure to be with you today and I want to thank the Advertising Standards Authority  for gathering together this group of senior managers from across many sectors for this summit.

The Authority is small but also very effective and has an important place in our content regulation landscape.

Its cross-platform, collaborative approach to managing the codes and complaints process is a great strength, as is the broad support it has received from all of you as advertisers, agencies and media organisations committed to responsible advertising.

And I also congratulate the ASA on its upcoming 45th birthday.

Effective advertising is fuel for a successful economy – and for a great deal of onscreen and online content.

However, as a powerful medium that can shape behaviour, it is a tool that needs to be used carefully.

I think we’re all watching closely what’s unfolding with Facebook and its user data and how that has been misused.

I welcome this forum – bringing together representatives of the wider advertising sector to collaborate on common issues and your vision for progress.

I also welcome your widespread commitment to maintaining a responsible approach in advertising.

I really do acknowledge the pressure facing this sector significantly from the technological disruption of digital platforms, where the shift from legacy platforms to digital media is reshaping our industry here.

Advertising revenue across all main media in New Zealand was $2.572b in 2016 which was effectively unchanged from the $2.57b in 2015.

It’s digital that’s lead the way with growth from $801m to $891m in 2016. I understand the 2017 data is due out soon.

That $891m in 2016 is 34.6 percent of New Zealand’s advertising revenue and the trend of spend to offshore media is significant and globally almost all the new money going in to digital is captured by the duopoly – Google and Facebook.

For New Zealand media companies that rely on advertising that same trend means an erosion of income for incumbents which flows in to funding news, programming and other content.

I mention this because I do acknowledge the pressures that the sector is facing.


Portfolio + MCH work programmes

I have a wonderful range of portfolios – I call them my dream portfolios – including the Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media portfolio.

We have an ambitious work programme in these areas, and I’m focused on ensuring there’s support for sector growth; sustainable and high-quality content; access for all New Zealanders; and a fit-for-purpose regulatory framework.

For me, collaboration will be an essential hallmark of my role as Minister. I want to see government moving more to being a partner and enabler – working alongside the different sectors that deliver services and value to our communities.

I’m keen on breaking down silos, and that’s why I’m so impressed by the way the Advertising Standards Authority works alongside Government agencies such as the Broadcasting Standards Authority, the Commerce Commission and Medsafe.

It also works across industry and media, to further issues of mutual interest and support responsible advertising.

I also appreciate how the Advertising Standards Authority, while dealing with its 1000 enquiries a year, takes a longer strategic view of how to make the advertising standards regime more effective and user friendly.


Cultural identity/wellbeing

I am, and always have been, a firm believer in the value of independent media and a supporter of public media as part of the wider media ecosystem.

I see our media as an integral part of our New Zealand culture – it educates, enriches, entertains, and helps inform debate – all core components of a healthy democracy.

It is important that we can see and hear ourselves and our stories reflected in our audio-visual content across media platforms.


RNZ+ and public broadcasting

My public broadcasting focus is right now on transforming RNZ into RNZ+, a truly multi-platform provider dedicated to quality New Zealand programming and journalism.

The creation of RNZ+ is a significant investment in the quality and voice of independent public media and will support a greater diversity of New Zealand stories.

So to help facilitate this, I am very pleased we have confirmed the establishment of a ministerial advisory group to investigate the establishment of a Public Media Funding Commission and to work with RNZ and NZ on Air to get the best possible business plans for evolution and the best spend of taxpayers’ money.

The Commission will be a non-political voice advising Parliament on the state of the media and the resourcing needs of public media agencies. It’s a new initiative, it’s a new thin layer of governance to cement independence, resilience and also provide much needed analysis of sustainable funding levels for investment in public interest media.

Media has a critical role in holding public and private institutions to account and in reporting on the government of the day.

That’s why having the right framework for a resilient and sustainable New Zealand broadcasting system is crucial to our strong modern democracy.

I am sure the members of the group are well known to many of you - Michael Stiassny, Sandi Beatie, Josh Easby and Irene Gardiner. Together they offer considerable governance, public sector and broadcasting experience.

I look forward to receiving their advice on the potential establishment of the permanent Public Media Funding Commission – its functions, role and scope.



All New Zealanders deserve to have the best possible access to quality media content.

This year, Government is committed to exploring ways to increase captioning on New Zealand television and film screens.

My officials are currently looking at options to increase captioning to levels that are evident in other OECD countries such as Australia, Canada and the UK.

The Government Administration Select Committee’s 2017 inquiry into Captioning in New Zealand addressed the lack of captioned advertising here including government advertisers who are often conveying important public service announcements.

This is an area we want to do better in.

We need to make sure we take the best approach to increasing captioning across all media, including on demand content.

This includes considering the select committee’s recommendation that the provision of captioning content be a requirement for NZ On Air and NZ Film Commission funding.  We are considering that – we haven’t made a decision about it yet.

To help us do this effectively this year, we will consult actively with the sector – with members of the hearing-impaired community, advocacy groups, broadcasters and Able, the organisation working to make media accessible – to find the best ways to achieve our goals.

Alongside this we will also be considering how best to raise the level of audio description.

We’re doing this because we recognise that increasing people’s access to high-quality media is an important vehicle for social inclusion and general wellbeing.



New Children’s Code

Last month I had the opportunity to discuss with Hilary and Heather the work and consultation led by the ASA during the development of its new Children and Young People’s Advertising Code.

I truly applaud the ASA’s commitment to supporting social responsibility and to putting the needs of our young people first.

It is a delicate line – balancing the right of our young New Zealanders to access multi-media cultural experiences with the need for this to be done in a safe environment.

And in bringing together two codes, while also addressing a number of specific issues raised by submitters, this was something that had to be achieved in a realistic and achievable manner – alongside industry, not against it.


Reform of media content regulation (digital convergence)


As you know, we have put on hold the previous Government’s Digital Convergence Bill.

I’ll say up front that at this early stage I can’t yet tell you whether we will revisit the ban on Sunday morning advertising.

What I can tell you is that we will be consulting on it.

In fact consultation, or lack of, is one of the key reasons we put the Bill on hold.

I don’t believe the views of the many affected by the proposed changes have been adequately considered in the current draft of the Bill.

This is a government that believes more can be achieved by working alongside and with the sector, so that’s what we will be doing.

Today’s multi-platform technology gives consumers more choice and greater accessibility, but has left our content regulation regime behind.

We have all known for some time that reform of content regulation is inevitable to create fairness, consistency and certainty in this new environment.

When it comes to advertising being ‘platform agnostic’ – it’s a great strength of the Advertising Standards Authority giving it the ability, with the support of industry, to ensure a level playing field for standards across all advertising.

I’m thinking here of recent examples such as broadening its definition of ‘advertisement’ and including any space carrying advertising to be in its jurisdiction.

This is unfortunately not the case elsewhere, with the Broadcasting Standards Authority, the New Zealand Press Council and the Office of Film and Literature Classification all involved in different areas, and some content having no standards regime at all.

Consistency whatever the medium is something I consider crucial to a meaningful and fair standards regime.

We want to refocus the Digital Convergence Bill to ensure it provides this consistency between different platforms; online and traditional broadcast content; and local and international content providers.

I recognise that many of you here today are engaged in this space and working with these platforms.

I want to get the industry working on this together because I believe that’s the way to find widely beneficial outcomes.

The Ministry for Culture and Heritage will shortly hold a workshop that will bring together media content providers, regulators and public interest organisations to seek consensus on media content regulation reform. 

Many in this room will already be involved in this process and can expect an invitation from the Ministry shortly to attend the workshop.

I intend to make progress on these issues, and I want to find a solution that works for the public, advertisers, media and all stakeholders, and that everyone can live with.


Concluding comments

I encourage you all to be open in your thinking and your dialogue at this Summit.

We need a robust and nimble system of advertising standards that continues to work for providers and public alike.

Forums like this provide a great opportunity to pool the immense knowledge and grass-roots experience in the sector.

Thank you and I wish you well for a productive morning.