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NBC Reverses Liquor Ad Decision

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WASHINGTON -- NBC has rescinded its decision to accept liquor ads.

"Recently, the bipartisan leadership of the House and Senate Commerce Committee asked NBC to reconsider our policy on distilled spirits advertising and to continue discussions with various public health and interest groups," the network said in a statement. "We have agreed to do that. We've said from the beginning that we want to be responsible on this issue. We are therefore ending the first phase of branded social responsibility advertising on our network and will not proceed into the next phase of carrying product advertising for distilled spirits. We will, however, continue to produce our own 'The More You Know' PSAS on using alcohol responsibly."

The decision comes a day before Mothers Against Drunk Driving will hold a press conference in Washington to call for tougher standards for all alcohol ads, including beer and wine. Last month, the American Medical Association ran a full-page ad in The New York Times on Feb. 27, telling parents that NBC has "let down America's children." The copy read: "Warning: Watching NBC may be hazardous to your children's health."

NBC has also faced growing pressure from lawmakers. Earlier this month, 13 lawmakers, including Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., sent a letter to NBC threatening to regulate network advertising if NBC did not change its policy. Rep. W.J. "Billy" Tauzin, R-La. and chairman of the House Energy Commerce Committee, was considering holding hearings on the issue.

"It appears to us they looked at all their options and decided to do the right thing," said Ken Johnson, a Tauzin rep. "There is no need to hold any hearings now."

To help counter some of the criticism, NBC hired Shepardson Stern + Kaminsky [Adweek, March 4], which specializes in corporate communications and crisis management.