Ad groups not leery of Lieberman

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The selection of Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman -- a vocal critic of sex and violence on TV -- as running mate to Vice President Al Gore has triggered only mild alarm among ad groups.

Those groups met with the senator less than a month ago, and came away with the belief that Sen. Lieberman was unlikely to seek legislative curbs on broadcasting content that advertisers and marketers had feared last year.

"He's not a headline-grabbing media-basher," said Penny Farthing, an attorney representing the Freedom to Advertise Coalition, whose members include major ad groups. "I think he is interested in doing what he can to see that pop culture doesn't head into the toilet."

`A THOUGHTFUL GUY'

Jeff Perlman, exec VP of the American Advertising Federation, called Sen. Lieberman "a straightforward, thoughtful guy. We have not always agreed with his view, but we would expect to work with him in a constructive fashion."

Ad groups had fretted last year that some congressional efforts to tone down TV and film sexuality and violence could lead to legislation. That would raise constitutional issues and could significantly affect TV programming.

Among the legislation offered on Capitol Hill are bills that would revive the family hour and require broadcasters to devise a code of conduct.

In a column published by Advertising Age, Sen. Lieberman and Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.) urged marketers to pressure networks to raise their standards (see Page 30).

Sen. Lieberman was among lawmakers who complained that retail chains were ignoring videogame ratings and selling violent games to kids.

He was also among senators who, in a letter to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Bill Kennard, urged the FCC to undertake a " broad re-examination" of license renewals to see if broadcasters are exercising "responsible" stewardship of the airwaves. "The evidence strongly suggests that many licensees . . . are breaching this public trust."

He joined Sen. Sam Brownback (R., Kan.) in an appeal to Hollywood to put together a joint rating program for TV, movies, records and games, and "be part of the solution" by toning down violence.

FCC COULD FEEL PRESSURE

Ad groups said that if the Gore-Lieberman team wins, there likely would be pressure on the FCC to act, but nonetheless they said Sen. Lieberman understands there are limits to what government should do.

"We have talked to the senator and typically his comments were very reasonable," said Hal Shoup, exec VP of the American Association of Advertising Agencies. "We are not too worried about media legislation. If Democrats take the White House there could be action on this front, but it could just intensify the validation of what the [marketing] industry is doing voluntarily."

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