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Mobile watchdog is a full-time job for WASPA media monitor

Released: 30 August 2011

As the media monitor at the Wireless Application Service Providers' Association of South Africa (WASPA), Ilonka Gray plays an invaluable role in safeguarding South African consumers from harmful content and advertising practices by the country's WASPs.

Her position is an important one within WASPA as it promotes self-regulation of South Africa's WASP industry. WASPs are service providers that provide mobile applications and content - such bulk SMS messaging, video clips, wallpapers, ringtones, and so on - to corporate customers and directly to consumers.

"My role is to ensure that members of the public can use these mobile services with confidence," says Gray. "My position entails proactively watching over the industry rather than taking action only when we receive complaints from the public."

With more than 10 years of experience in the mobile content industry and four years at WASPA, Gray has a deep passion for the WASP industry and an intimate understanding of how it works. For her, self-regulation of the industry is good for consumers and WASPs alike.

The purpose of the media monitor is to keep an eye on the media that WASPs advertise in and watch for transgressions of WASPA's advertising rules and Code of Conduct. The goal is to protect members of the public from illegal content, misleading advertising, and inappropriate advert content.

Gray monitors advertising across a range of media, including television, cinema, radio, magazines, press, billboards, websites, WAP sites, below-the-line elements (brochures, posters, leaflets etc), SMS competitions, cellphone commercial messages and in-store advertising.

Some of the most common infractions she encounters are violations of the format that WASPA has defined for all WASP ads on television. The format is meant to ensure that all mandatory information is present as well as easy-to-read on televisions of all sizes. "We take this rule very seriously because consumers have the right to easily see information such as total pricing and helpline support before they subscribe to a service," Gray says.

As a mother of two, Gray is especially committed to keeping harmful content away from children, such as ads for adult services during prime time viewing. She works with both WASPA members and the cellular networks to try and keep illegal and inappropriate content off the South African cellular networks.

When a WASP has violated the Code of Conduct in its advertising, Gray will immediately send a letter to the service provider informing it of the contravention. The WASP has two days in which to respond with a remedy.

"This process works wonderfully and almost all issues are resolved without having to proceed to a formal complaint," Gray says, Ads that violate the Code may be pulled from circulation, costing WASPs both time and money. As a result, most take the Code fairly seriously. Gross or repeated transgressions may result in severe sanctions against a WASP - it can fine members, suspend them, and force them to pull advertising from media.

Gray says that her office provides an advisory service for WASPS that assists them with marketing campaigns before they launch, also in an effort to create compliance. Though not formal or compulsory, it is helping to lift the level of compliance with the WASPA Code of Conduct.



WASPA represents the mobile development; value added services and content services community in South Africa. After lobbying the mobile operators and WASPs in late 2003 for an industry body, WASPA's formative meeting was held in August 2004. Membership of WASPA was made mandatory by the mobile operators and TV stations for any company doing value added services in South Africa.

WASPA's remit is to promote and self-regulate the WASP industry. As part of the self-regulatory component of WASPA, there is the now internationally recognized and emulated self-regulatory regime for mobile value added services that includes the WASPA Code of Conduct & Advertising Rules. WASPA's Code of Conduct regulates inter alia, competitions, chat, adult services, spam, CRM, advertising of services,subscription services and pricing. The first version of the Code was passed in June 2004 and implemented on 1 September 2005. It has been updated numerous times as the need has arisen.

Enforcement of the Code & Advertising Rules is achieved by a novel quasi-judicial system that consists of a procedure for lodging and responding to complaints where it is thought the Code is being contravened. Adherence to the Code and the Advertising rules is mandatory for all providers operating in South Africa.

ICT lawyers acting as WASPA adjudicators will find on the merits and have the power to suspend, fine, expel any WASP or Information Provider found to contravene the Code rules. Adjudications are enforced through contractual provisions in all WASP agreements. There is also a 3-person appeals panel as well as an emergency panel.

Issued by:

Ivan Booth
Reliable Sources PR
082 851 7419
ivan (at) reliablesources.co.za