The push for changes comes despite some seeming lessening of direct regulatory pressure, said congressional leaders and agency officials at the recent annual government affairs conference of the American Advertising Federation.
"If one analyzes this, there will be some issues in the interest of [Senate Majority Leader Bob] Dole to resolve and others he won't want to resolve," said Rep. Robert Matsui (D., Calif), a member of the House Ways & Means Committee. And, he said, President Clinton has similar needs.
Rep. Matsui said House Republicans who started out pushing their Contract With America last year have seen many of its elements stymied or defeated in the Senate, and they're looking for accomplishments.
Federal Trade Commission Chairman Robert Pitofsky, citing the increase in media that the FTC has to monitor-as cable and the Internet grow-as well as his agency's limited resources, used the forum to call for greater voluntary actions.
MORE SCREENING URGED
He specifically urged broadcasters to do a better job of screening advertising for accuracy.
Federal Communications Commission member Susan Ness, while urging the advertising community to "seize the opportunity" to serve the nation's children by using some of their advertising dollars to support educational programming, cited advertisers' voluntary actions as key to reducing "trash" talk shows.
"TV should be family friendly and advertisers can help," she said, in a theme later echoed by Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D., Conn.).
MAYBE AFTER ELECTION DAY
Legislative leaders said even if nothing happens before the election in terms of legislation affecting the industry, the issues could surface in the immediate post-election session.
What issues actually could be out there is less clear.
Reps. Matsui and Jim Nussle (R., Iowa), a member of Ways & Means, pointed to the flat-tax debate that was heightened by Steve Forbes' campaign.
"My belief is that as we move to tax reform, we are going to be looking at `corporate welfare,"' said Rep. Matsui, noting that advertising's deductibility is often described as such.
Senate Majority Whip Sen. Trent Lott (R., Miss.), said proposals to limit youth smoking are likely, while at the same time plans to limit the Food & Drug Administration's regulatory authority over tobacco will be studied. "It's a political grab for power," he said. "The FDA is already a basket case, and now they want to get into controlling advertising."