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Thurmond to push for ad warnings

Broadcasters have received word from Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.) that he will seek an early vote from the Senate Commerce Committee in 1994 on a bill requiring that health warnings be attached to beer and wine advertisements.

That’s the word from Jim May, lobbyist for the National Assn. of Broadcasters , who said Thurmond rejected an NAB offer to drop his bill in exchange for a two-year broadcast industry public education effort emphasizing the dangers of drunk driving, underage drinking and drinking during pregnancy.

Radio and TV station execs claim the Thurmond bill and companion legislation offered in the House of Representatives by Rep. Joseph Kennedy (D-Mass.) could drive alcohol blurbs off the air, thus costing stations millions in lost revenue.

Choice of warnings

The legislation would require all alcohol ads to display one of a series of seven health warnings. The warnings — such as “Drinking increases your risk of high blood pressure, liver disease and cancer”– would be read aloud at the end of all radio and TV commercials.

Thurmond offered the bill before the death of his daughter earlier this year in an accident involving a drunk driver.

The NAB is especially concerned that the emotional impact of Thurmond’s daughter’s death could prompt some lawmakers into supporting the bill.

Influential Senate Commerce Committee chairman Ernest Hollings (D-S.C.) has already sent notice that he backs the bill, a message that should give broadcasters cause for worry.

NAB seeks clout

May said it remains to be seen whether the NAB can muster the lobbying clout needed to kill the bill in committee.

Otherwise, NAB may try to encourage amendments that would make the measure “more palatable,” according to May. One such proposal would delete the requirement that the warnings be read aloud, May said.

Even if the Senate embraces the Thurmond measure, prospects for House passage appear less certain. That’s because the bill must first clear a subcommittee chaired by Rep. Al Swift (D-Wash.), a former broadcaster who has been lukewarm to the proposal.

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