FCC hits the bottle

Hundt moots strict TV liquor ad rules

WASHINGTON — FCC Chairman Reed Hundt laid out for the first time this week a series of proposals for limiting hard alcohol advertising on television.

The options on Hundt’s desk range from an outright ban on hard liquor ads to a new rule that would require TV stations to air one anti-substance abuse public service announcement for every booze commercial sold. Hundt laid out the proposals in a speech Monday to the Mothers Against Drunk Driving National Youth Summit on Underage Drinking.

Hundt compared hard liquor advertising to the now-banned TV ads for cigarettes, which, like alcohol, are a legal product for adults but not for minors.

“Should we think of TV as a store that won’t sell you the drink, but will make sure you can tell rye from scotch, bourbon from Southern Comfort, tequila from Tanqueray?” asked Hundt, adding, “Or is it possible that TV is more insidious and invasive than that? It is it possible that my parents’ generation was right when it decided that TV was too powerful a medium to us for advertising a product that is illegal and desperately dangerous for youths to take?”

Hundt also said the FCC may consider a ban on the commercials until after 11 p.m., or even tagging the ads with a label that would allow parents to block them with a V-chipped set.

Hundt and other opponents of alcohol ads on TV are still struggling with the problem of limiting hard liquor sales on television while the beer industry spends more than $600 million annually on TV commercials. “Hard liquor ignores the obvious fact that if it were a bad idea to have beer on TV, then putting hard liquor ads on is a perfect example of the theory that two wrongs don’t make a right,” said Hundt.

After abstaining voluntarily from TV advertising for 40 years, the hard liquor industry began buying airtime last year. But its access to the airwaves is limited, because all major networks have refused to sell the industry ad time and only a handful of stations are currently running the commercials.

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