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Liquor lobby blasts plan

WASHINGTON — The hard liquor industry’s top D.C. lobbyist said Friday that he would oppose a proposal to grant an antitrust exemption to broadcasters who wanted to enact a ban on spirits advertising.

The plan, backed by House telecommunications subcommittee chair-man Billy Tauzin (R-La.), calls for the Federal Trade Commission to grant a limited exemption to the broadcasting industry to create the ban. Under current law, broadcasters could be charged with collusion if they adopted an industrywide ban on hard alcohol sales.

But Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S. prexy Fred Meister said the measure would discriminate against the hard liquor industry unless it also covers beer and wine. “If … the exemption would perpetuate discrimination against distilled spirits, we would strongly oppose it,” said Meister.

Tauzin said he has discussed the proposal with FTC chairman Robert Pitofsky, who expressed interest in the idea. The FTC is already investigating Stroh Brewing and Seagram America for allegedly targeting underage drinkers with their advertising campaigns. Until last year, the liquor industry voluntarily refrained from buying advertising time on TV and radio.

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