Hundt puts liquor onto ’97 agenda

WASHINGTON – FCC chairman Reed Hundt has laid out his 1997 agenda for the commission, which includes a continuing battle against hard-liquor advertising on television, political campaign reform as it relates to TV, and further review of broadcast ownership rules.

The somewhat unusual 30-page document is titled “The Hard Road Ahead.”

In the past, Federal Communications Commission chairmen have rarely laid out such manifestos but Hundt is not the usual FCC chairman and his commission continues to have major impact, both in terms of what goes out over the airwaves as well as how the TV industry is regulated.

Hundt said the return of hard-liquor ads to the small screen is a very “unfortunate development.” Seagram, the parent of Universal Studios, has been at the forefront of bringing such spots to the tube.

Territorial dispute Hundt wants the FCC to launch a notice of inquiry into liquor ads, but he does not enjoy the full support of the commission for such an undertaking. Many Beltway insiders feel that the Federal Trade Commission should handle this touchy subject, not the FCC.

But Hundt said a “central component of the commission’s expertise is our ability to evaluate the effect of television on children” and that an inquiry would permit members of the public, broadcasters and the distilled spirits industry to voice their views on the issue.

With regard to relaxing rules that prohibit broadcasters from owning more than one TV station per market, Hundt said allowing ownership of two stations would decrease diversity of ownership. However, he also added that it could “possibly increase diversity of viewpoint and programming in some markets.”

That remark would seem to indicate that Hundt may be flexible on the issue. He also added that if relaxing the so-called duopoly rules will help broadcasters compete in a more competitive environment, then the commission should listen closely to comments concerning the issue.

For the publicOn the issue of political advertising, Hundt said he was pleased that so many broadcasters gave presidential candidates free air time this past fall.

In the future, he said the FCC may consider that broadcasters using digital televisin allocate 5% of their programming for public interest.

On the cable front, Hundt expressed some frustration about the decision of some large cable companies, including Time Warner, not to go into telephony, and on the flip side, telcos not going into cable.

“Detente is not what the Telecommunicatins Act of 1996 was supposed to be about,” Hundt said, adding, “Apparently it is no small job to create sufficient incentives for competition to despense with the need for regulation of monopolies.

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