Liquor’s a Totally Arbitrary Broadcast Restriction

Apparently after watching all the new pilots, I’m not the only one who could use a stiff drink.

The Wall Street Journal reported over the weekend how broadcasters are quietly easing lonstanding rules against hard-liquor ads, accepting them in latenight programs like David Letterman and Jimmy Kimmel’s shows.

If you hear a collective “So what?” coming from the vast majority of consumers, you’d be right.

While certain distinctions between broadcasting and cable linger, given the number of liquor ads I see on basic cable networks in the course of a week, it’s hard to imagine a few more on the major networks in latenight — after the vast majority of minors are in bed — are going to weaken the republic.

In fact, I distinctly remember this whole debate from the mid-1980s, when I was a beardless kid working at Advertising Age, and wine marketers pitched a hissy fit over a hard-liquor company, Seagram’s, running an ad equating the amount of alcohol in a single mixed drink to a glass of wine or 12-ounce beer.

OK, so maybe bourbon will get you shit-faced that much faster. Keep drinking wine and beer, and you’ll wind up in the same place. (Um, you know, from what I remember.) As for the argument liquor advertising encourages drinking and thus alcohol abuse, given the placement, we’re not talking about getting people to drink so much as jockeying over market share.

The broadcast networks still adhere to various standards that differentiate them from cable, but the lines have blurred dramatically through the years — and certainly since the whole “A drink is a drink is a drink” brouhaha. And while I applaud them for restricting hard booze ads to latenight, I wouldn’t be surprised to see some creeping into sports coverage at some point down the road.

Of course, please drink responsibly, unless you have to watch every one of the new pilots. In that case, all bets are off.

 

 

 

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