Synopsis of "FCC Chief Hundt Urges Anti-Alcohol PSA Push"
by Ira Teinowitz Source
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Reed Hundt expressed concern about
advertising for alcohol including beer and wine, according to staff writer
Ira Teinowitz in an Advertising Age article entitled "FCC Chief
Hundt Urges Anti-Alcohol PSA Push" (May 19, 1997, v68n20,p.6).
Hundt made his remarks at a youth summit sponsored by Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
According to Teinowitz, Hundt proposed a "PSA antidote," which would require
braodcasters to air anti-alcohol ads in reponse to paid alcohol ads. Hundt acknowledged
that a total ban on alcohol ads would likely not occur, because broadcasters have
become reliant on the $700 million spent annually on beer and wine advertising.
There is precedence to the FCC using PSAs to counter paid advertisements. From
1968-1970, according to Teinowitz, the FCC used a Fairness Doctrine mandating that
broadcasters air one anti-tobacco ad for every four paid tobacco ads they ran.
As a result, tobacco marketers in 1970 voluntarily stopped broadcast ads, an action
which was then set into policy by Congress.
Teinowitz writes that Mr. Hundt did not specify a particular PSA/ad ratio, but
did say that broadcsters would be required to provide the time for the ads. In his
prepared speech distributed to journalists, however, he did suggest a one-for-one
tradeoff for anti-alcohol PSAs and distilled spirits ads. The text of his speech also
proposes that spirits marketers be required to pay for the spots.
Following Mr.Hundt's speech, the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence,
MADD, and other groups petition asked for a "significant" number of anti-alcohol
spots to air for two months.
According to Teinowitz, a spokesperson for NCADD stated that they do not support a
ban on alcohol advertising. "We believe the more information out there the better,"
said Sarah Kayson, director of public policy. "Broadcasters are required to broadcast
in the public interest, and we would argue that because they take money to advertise
alcohol in the public interest, they should be requried to provide advertising
that counters it."
The petition elicited attacks from broadcasters, according to Teinowitz. The Beer
Institute and Anheuser-Bush quickly blasted the idea. "We applaud and support efforts
to help continue the progress against drunk driving, teen drinking, and alcohol abuse...
but beer advertising has nothing to do with these problems," said A-B vice president
Stephen Lambright in a statement. "Study after study has shown that advertising
does not cause teens to start drinking or current drinkers to drink abusively."
Hundt praised the petition, according to Teinowitz. "Yet more concerned citizens
have asked the FCC to take a hard look at the issues raised by the introduction of
hard-liquor advertisements on television," said Hundt, who has encouraged fellow
commissioners to launch an inquiry into broadcast ads.