On Capitol Hill, Voices Raised vs. Alcohol Ads

WASHINGTON, D.C.-Two high-profile senators staked out positions against alcohol advertising last week, further stoking the liquor ad controversy.
Sen. Ernest Hollings, D-S.C., said that the Federal Communications Commission should not renew the license of any broadcaster which has previously aired liquor ads.
Separately, Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., persuaded the U.S. Senate to pass amendments to the District of Columbia Appropriations Bill, which would ban all alcohol billboards in the District.
Advertising trade groups said they believed there were First Amendment issues with both Hollings’ proposal and Byrd’s bill.
Hollings’ statement came during the Senate Commerce Committee hearings on the nominations of three potential FCC commissioners: Michael Powell (son of Colin Powell), Harold Furtchgott-Roth and Gloria Tristani. Liquor manufacturers have largely complied with a longtime voluntary ban on TV ads, but recently some stations have aired new spots.
Byrd’s outdoor ad ban, which affects only D.C., may have trouble passing in the more laissez-faire House. Its passage in the Senate, however, reflects the federal trend against vice advertising. “Senator Byrd has a serious concern about alcohol and youth,” his office said. “He thinks this will have an impact.”
Also last week, William Kennard, who is on his way to being confirmed as the new chairman of the FCC, made it clear that he is committed to the controversial alcohol advertising inquiry initiated by his predecessor, Reed Hundt. During confirmation hearings, Kennard said that he thought the investigation of liquor ads on TV is within the FCC’s purview. Advertising lobbyists have maintained that control of alcohol advertising should remain at the Federal Trade Commission.