Title page for ETD etd-05082012-122133

Document Type Doctoral Thesis
Author Vos, Stefan Willem
Email stefan.vos@mweb.co.za
URN etd-05082012-122133
Document Title De gustibus non est disputandum : regulating offensive advertising in a democratic South Africa
Degree LLD
Department Mercantile Law
Advisor Name Title
Prof F Viljoen Co-Supervisor
Prof P A Delport Supervisor
  • the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa
  • advertising code
  • advertising standards
Date 2012-04-11
Availability unrestricted
The Advertising Standards Authority‘s system of self-regulation compares favourably with that of similar bodies in many other countries. Its advertising code regulates, amongst others, offensive advertising. This study investigates whether the limitations imposed by the South African advertising code accord with the provisions of the South African Constitution. In order to examine this critically, an interpretative, comparative review of the literature on this topic was conducted.

Offensive advertising is a form of freedom of expression that is protected in South Africa. It is accepted as such in constitutional jurisprudence, both in South Africa and internationally. The advertising code may therefore only limit advertising freedom insofar as the limitations of s 36 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996 permit it.

In terms of s 36, the South Africa advertising code needs to constitute a ‘law of general application’. As a contract between advertisers and the Advertising Standards Authority, and also based on the advertising code’s legal underpinning in broadcast advertising, the code is ‘law’. Moreover, as a published document based on international advertising principles, the code is furthermore also accessible; and it has general application.

However, the vague terminology employed in the offensive advertising clause means that the clause constitutes an unenforceable contract term. It is not sufficiently clear and precise to qualify as ‘law of general application’, with the exception of the provisions on gender offence, the offensive advertising provisions are not formulated with sufficient precision so as to enable advertisers to reasonably ascertain prior to publication whether an advertisement is likely to be acceptable.

The Constitutional Court in Islamic Unity Convention v Independent Broadcasting Authority NO 2002 (4) SA 294; 2002 (5) BCLR 433 para 30 highlighted the categories of offensive material that can be expected to be regulated in a democratic society, if fairness and a diversity of views representative of South African society is to be achieved, namely material that is (1) indecent, obscene or offensive to public morals; (2) offensive to religious convictions; or (3) offensive to feelings of sections of the population .

The study concludes that in respect of sex, nudity, violence, and language, advertising material should be limited to appropriate media placement in that the South African advertising code should aim to protect children and unwilling adult recipients from offence occasioned by encountering such material, rather than preventing moral deterioration.

The study also concludes that when dealing with religious convictions, race, sexual orientation, ethnic or social origin, age, disability, and culture, the prohibitions on advertising should mirror the provisions of the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act (Act 4 of 2000), dealing with hate speech: If a category of offence is to be banned, such offence cannot be merely shocking but must result in hate speech. The Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act is a direct result of the requirement in the Constitution, 1996 that national legislation must be enacted to prevent or prohibit unfair discrimination.

Finally, the study proposes amended provisions relating to offensive advertising for the South African advertising code: Firstly, it is proposes that an advertiser‘s freedom of expression should be curtailed in a manner that ensures fairness and a diversity of views broadly representing a democratic South African society. Secondly, the proposal aims to ensure that offensive advertising provisions accord with the value system of the Constitution, 1996, when collectively weighing up the requirements and factors provided for in s 36 of the Constitution, 1996, together with all other relevant factors.

© 2011 University of Pretoria. All rights reserved. The copyright in this work vests in the University of Pretoria. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission of the University of Pretoria.

Please cite as follows:

Vos, SW 2011, De gustibus non est disputandum : regulating offensive advertising in a democratic South Africa, LLD thesis, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, viewed yymmdd < http://upetd.up.ac.za/thesis/available/etd-05082012-122133/ >


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  00front.pdf 484.90 Kb 00:02:14 00:01:09 00:01:00 00:00:30 00:00:02
  01chapter1.pdf 308.38 Kb 00:01:25 00:00:44 00:00:38 00:00:19 00:00:01
  02chapter2.pdf 363.00 Kb 00:01:40 00:00:51 00:00:45 00:00:22 00:00:01
  03chapter3.pdf 419.78 Kb 00:01:56 00:00:59 00:00:52 00:00:26 00:00:02
  04chapter4.pdf 780.24 Kb 00:03:36 00:01:51 00:01:37 00:00:48 00:00:04
  05chapters5-6.pdf 352.84 Kb 00:01:38 00:00:50 00:00:44 00:00:22 00:00:01
  06bibliography.pdf 603.79 Kb 00:02:47 00:01:26 00:01:15 00:00:37 00:00:03

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