Alcohol Ads on D.C. Billboards, TV Are Under Attack on Capitol Hill

The fires of the alcohol advertising controversy are being stoked again on Capitol Hill, and two high-profile Senators staked out their positions late last week–one is trying to ban alcohol outdoor boards in the District, the other suggesting that broadcasters who run hard liquor ads lose their license.
Late last week, the U.S. Senate passed three alcohol-related amendments that Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) tagged on to the District of Columbia Appropriations bill. (The federal government has taken away much of the District’s home rule and is overseeing the finances of the stateless city.)
The most significant, Amend-ment No. 1267, bans all outdoor alcohol advertising billboards in the District. The bill may have more trouble passing in the House, but its passage in the Senate reflects the federal trend of restricting vice advertising.
“Sen. Byrd has a serious concern about alcohol and youth,” said a representative from his office, “and he thinks this will have an impact.”
Byrd’s two other amendments involve the addition of more inspectors on the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board and reviewing the tax structure for alcoholic products.
Separately, Sen. Ernest Hollings (D-S.C.) stated last week that if a broadcaster applies to renew its license after previously airing liquor ads, then the Federal Communications Commission should not act favorably. Hard liquor marketers had complied with a longtime voluntary TV ad ban until recently, when some spirit makers began running spots.
The surprise statement came during the Senate Com-merce Committee hearings last week on the nominations of three potential FCC commissioners–Michael Powell, Harold Furtchgott-Roth and Gloria Trisani.
Ad trade groups said they were watching the developments on the Hill closely, and that there are serious First Amendment issues with Byrd’s bill and Hollings proposal.