Rep. Tauzin armed for Hundt, FCC

NEW ORLEANS – Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La.) showed why he is broadcasters’ hometown favorite when he apologized for the chilly New Orleans weather and then warmed up the audience with a heated attack on FCC chairman Reed Hundt at Monday’s Assn. of Local Television Stations panel.

Just two weeks ago Tauzin became the House telecommunications subcommittee chairman and has wasted no time in reassuring broadcasters that he will come to their defense in the face of Hundt’s aggressive moves to shape telecommunications policy.

The FCC “is not charged with making public policy, it is charged with carrying it out,” Tauzin said, during a session dubbed “Words From Chairman Billy.”

‘Meddling’ assailed

Tauzin said he, like many broadcasters, is particularly concerned about recent threats by Hundt to steer the debate over hard-liquor advertising and TV program ratings, which he referred to as “government meddling” and “interference.”

The television industry should be given a chance to implement its recently launched TV rating system, Tauzin said. “The television industry said it would create an easily understood and credible ratings system, and it has delivered on its promise,” he said. “I believe that parenting the children of our country is still our job, not the president’s, the vice president’s or their wives’, or other elected members of Congress.”

Code of conduct urged

Tauzin also encouraged the beer, wine and hard-liquor industries to work with broadcasters on the creation of a voluntary “code of conduct” that would ensure that underage viewers are not targeted by any alcohol advertising. “The First Amendment does not give hard alcohol or the beer and wine industry the right to target (young) audiences.”

Tauzin’s statements may cause the beer and wine industry to wince, because it is very concerned about being dragged into the controversy created earlier this year by the hard-liquor industry’s decision to abandon its 50-year-old voluntary ban on broadcast advertising. Beer companies spend more than $600 million annually on TV advertising.

The Federal Trade Commission already is investigating the advertising practices of Seagram and Stroh Brewing. Hundt has said he would like the FCC to look into the practice of alcohol advertising on television. He has hinted that one possible solution to the controversy could be a ban on any alcohol advertising during times when children are most likely to be watching television.

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