Lawmakers stirred

House skeds meetings on NBC's booze ads

WASHINGTON — NBC’s landmark plan to air hard booze ads will be distilled and debated during an upcoming meeting between liquor industry reps and a key Capitol Hill solon wanting to ensure that such campaigns carry plenty of warnings.

“In other words, teenagers guzzling Jim Beam isn’t going to fly,” said Ken Johnson, top aide to Rep. W.J. “Billy” Tauzin (R-La.).

Tauzin, chair of the powerful House Commerce Committee, opted to meet privately with liquor biz execs before deciding whether to hold a congressional hearing on NBC’s break from TV’s voluntary ban on hard liquor ads.

Tauzin’s gathering is expected to take place in the next few weeks.

Johnson said there wouldn’t be much point to a public hearing if the liquor industry felt it was being put on trial. “It would be difficult to have a meaningful dialogue if they don’t want to participate,” he said.

Tauzin also has been in touch with NBC, which continues to defend its plan to accept hard liquor advertising in the face of widespread criticism from health advocates and consumer groups.

Such ads have yet to roll out, since the Peacock is preceding them with a three-month public service campaign promoting responsible drinking. The net has come up with 19 stringent rules governing the spots, including that anyone appearing in the blurbs be over 30 years of age.

So far, no other net has followed the Peacock’s lead — not publicly at least. No doubt hard liquor ads could prove a lucrative boost.

It was an upset Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) who approached Tauzin about convening a hearing, saying he was shocked by NBC’s decision.

“Obviously, this is a very sticky First Amendment issue, and we intend to move cautiously,” Johnson said. “That said, we will be advising NBC and the liquor industry to make certain that appropriate cautionary warnings are part of any advertising campaign.”

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