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Lawmakers denounce NBC's decision on liquor advertising

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    NMU         WASHINGTON, D.C.         Broadcasting         Jan 3, 2002    

Lawmakers denounce NBC’s decision on liquor advertising

  • Two congressmen say they are prepared to introduce legislation to ban advertisements of distilled spirits on television if the network doesn’t reverse plans to run such advertisements.

Two U.S. lawmakers last month pledged to consider hearings and possibly legislation if NBC didn’t reverse its decision to run hard-liquor advertisements.

“We hope that Congress will not have to become involved in this matter, but Congress has a responsibility to protect the public interest and the public airwaves,” Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) and Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.) wrote to network officials in a Dec. 20 letter.

“Therefore, we must be candid and let you know that we are prepared to hold extensive hearings on alcohol advertising on television and to introduce legislation to replace the system of self-regulation.”

The two representatives wrote further that the decision smacks of profiteering in the face of concerns about underage drinking, drunk driving and other social problems.

But the distilled spirits industry praised the network’s decision, calling it a welcome progression in responsible advertising of alcohol. Peter Cressy, president of the Distilled Spirits Council, said such ads have run on more than 2,000 radio stations and cable television programs since 1996. That year, the group said it would no longer abide by a voluntary agreement to not run such ads, an agreement that had been in place since 1948.

NBC last month became the first network to drop the voluntary ban, announcing a deal it made with Diageo PLC, a British spirits company. NBC aired a Smirnoff vodka ad during a showing of “Saturday Night Live.”

As part of the agreement between NBC and Diageo, all liquor ads aired over the next four months would only include “socially responsible” messages warning against alcohol abuse. Every fifth ad after that must include such a message.

All of the ads would be aired after 9 p.m. Eastern time or during late-night programming, presumably when most children would not be watching television.

But the congressmen called the public service announcements “window dressing” designed to ease the network’s conscience but not to “satisfy the mom or dad whose teenaged son or daughter sees a sophisticated liquor ad and decides to be ‘grown up’ and go drinking with friends.”


© 2002 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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