6 Feds find new targets
Without Howard Stern to kick around, the federal government left indecency standards simmering and turned its attention to a new target—direct-to-consumer drug advertising. During a November public hearing, consumer groups lobbied the Food and Drug Administration for a moratorium on DTC ads. Groups like Public Citizen's Health Research Group and Prescription Access Litigation Project testified that the ads minimize side effects and promote fear, while advertiser lobbyists suggested DTC ads educate consumers and open up doctor-patient dialogues. The drug industry's $4.1 billion in U.S. ad spending is at stake, so any regulatory action could cause side effects including sweaty palms and shrinking agency revenues. Also on the feds' agenda this year, and likely next, is advertising to kids. The Institute of Medicine recommended that licensed cartoon characters no longer be used to market unhealthful foods to kids, meaning Pop-Tarts-licensed SpongeBob may have to hang up his square pants. And rules prohibiting kids' ads from promoting commercial Web sites or other TV shows go into effect in January, if the FCC declines to accept a proposal from media firms and kids' advocates that would soften them.