FCC Considering an Anti-Alcohol ‘V-Chip’ to Block Television Ads

By Nora FitzGerald

WASHINGTON, D.C.–The Federal Communications Commission is considering using the ‘V-chip’ in its fight against alcohol advertising on television.

The proposed measure marks the first instance a regulatory body has suggested using a blocking system for advertising, according to industry trade association lobbyists.

‘There are lots of reasons people want to turn off advertising,’ said one lobbyist. ‘This is the beginning of a slippery slope. Can you imagine if everyone is able to turn off those pesky little ads?’

The FCC’s notice of inquiry states that V-chip technology ‘suggests the possibility of a similar mechanism to restrict the display of distilled spirits advertising.’ And, more broadly, the notice asked, ‘Would it be possible to implement an encoded blocking system for advertisements, analogous to the system to be used for the ‘V-chip’?’ The V-chip measure is one of several possibilities mentioned in the inquiry.

‘Each one of these is extremely dangerous,’ said Dan Jaffe, executive vice president of the Association of National Advertisers. ‘No one has had a chance to analyze these proposals (Departing FCC chairman Reed) Hundt’s list is endless.’

Hundt warned liquor advertisers and broadcasters last week not to interpret his resignation as a sign that the alcohol ad inquiry will languish.

However, last week Hundt implied his V-chip recommendation was too little, too late: ‘The hard liquor challenge to our ethics is here and now,’ he said. ‘I’m not willing to wait for futuristic technological solutions to this problem.’

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