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Alcohol overhaul

Tauzin acts to head off tighter booze ad regs

WASHINGTON — Fearful that the Federal Trade Commission may soon issue a report calling for tighter regulation of alcohol advertising on television and radio, House Telecommunications subcommittee chairman Billy Tauzin (R-La.) is urging the agency to proceed with caution.

In a March 19 letter to the FTC, Tauzin wrote, “self regulation should prevail over government intervention, plain and simple.”

The FTC is preparing a report to Congress on the effectiveness of the voluntary marketing codes employed by the beer, wine and hard alcohol industries. It has collected marketing data from several beer, wine and hard alcohol companies for more than a year.

Tauzin recently met with FTC chairman Robert Pitofsky on the upcoming report, but his staff refused to comment on any specifics including possible recommendations on new advertising regulations. However, Tauzin aide Ken Johnson said it should be clear that Tauzin is concerned about what he heard from Pitofsky. “We felt that it was appropriate to weigh in at this time,” Johnson said.

The beer and wine industry spends more than $600 million a year on television advertising and some regulators have expressed concern that the commercials illegally target underage drinkers.

Hard alcohol advertising had not been an issue in Washington until two years ago when the spirits industry broke its own 50-year-old voluntary ban on using radio or television to promote its products. In an effort to discourage Congress from trying to regulate the beer and wine advertising, every major broadcast network agreed to abstain from hard alcohol advertising. Except for a handful of TV stations and a few cable networks, the hard alcohol industry has not been able to win wide-spread acceptance of its advertising.