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Congressmen Warn NBC Not To Air Liquor Ads
Threaten to 'Step in to Protect the Public Interest'

Thirteen congressmen have increased the pressure on NBC to cancel plans to air liquor ads this spring.

The congressmen have sent General Electric Co.'s NBC a stern letter warning of possible recriminations if the network goes ahead with its plan to air liquor ads in April.

"We would hate to see your network become the object of a public backlash against network hard-liquor advertising or the reason that Congress steps in to protect the public interest and public airwaves by setting up a federal regulatory system for network advertising," the letter said.

The letter is from U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., who had had earlier written NBC, and is signed by him and others on Capitol Hill.

'Responsibility' messages

NBC in December said it would allow distilled spirits marketers to begin airing ads after 9 p.m. if they first run "responsibility" messages for four months.

Diageo's Guinness-UDV North America began airing a "drink responsibly" message for Smirnoff vodka Dec. 15 and can begin airing actual spirits advertising in April.

Guinness-UDV is the first liquor marketer to strike a deal with NBC.

Rep. Wolf heads a panel of the House Appropriations Committee, which could hold a hearing on liquor ads.

Congressional passage of legislation on liquor this year appears unlikely.

NBC said the letter wouldn't prompt it to alter its plans. In a statement, the network said it has developed a strict 19-point "protocol" for accepting liquor advertising.

"We are sensitive to the issues surrounding liquor advertising on television," the network said.


Ira Teinowitz, AdAge.com. February 27, 2002

Copyright © 2002 Crain Communications, Inc.. All rights reserved.