NBC-TV to Air Liquor Ads

NBC-TV to Air Liquor Ads
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The soft economy has some broadcasters taking ads they might have felt squeamish about before. Hence, NBC-TV is the first network to break broadcasters' self-imposed ban on liquor ads. NAB has 19-point guidelines for such ads, such as airing them only after 9 p.m., and mandating that the actors in the spots must be at least 30 years old.
Some liquor categories have been flat sales-wise for several years and in 1996, the Distilled Spirits Council of America began to successfully lobby stations to air the ads. Many have. DISCUS says some 400 local TV stations, 2,000 radio stations and numerous cable networks have aired such ads over the past five years.
Broadcasters have feared a public backlash if they aired liquor ads, so much so that Congress might impose a ban on all alcoholic beverage ads, including beer and wine. Beer is a big ad category for radio with such companies reportedly spending about $350 million in advertising; 85 percent goes toward print and $55 million is split between TV and radio.
DISCUS has always said, "Alcohol is alcohol," meaning liquor and beer ads should not be treated differently and that liquor is a legal product.
DISCUS members "have a longstanding tradition of social responsibility. Their commitment to responsible advertising will remain regardless of the medium," said association President Peter Cressy.
NBC briefed members of Congress as well as the advocacy group Mothers Against Drunk Drivers in an effort to smooth criticism of its plan. MADD find NBC's guidelines reasonable, according to a statement the group released. "It is our understanding that the ads will comply with MADD's alcohol-advertising position and will air late at night during programs that target 85 percent-adult audiences. MADD hopes these will be permanent standards and that they will be applied to all segments of the industry."
U.S. Reps. Frank Wolfe, R-Va., and Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif., wrote to NBC executives urging the network to reverse its decision, saying they would hold hearings on the issue and might introduce legislation that would mandate a ban.
A representative for Rep. Billy Tauzin, R-La., said that would come close to violating the First Amendment.
"NBC's recent decision to begin airing television advertising for distilled spirits under strict standards does not mean that alcohol will now begin to be advertised on television - that is already happening. What it does mean is that the advertising will now be more responsible," wrote NBC Television Network President Randy Falco in an opinion piece for "The Washington Post."

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