Hundt's fight sets stage for bigger battle at FCC

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Federal Communications Commission Chairman Reed Hundt pulled his request for an inquiry into broadcast advertising of liquor products before last week's commission meeting. But it remains on the agenda for July 10, though a vote to approve the inquiry still is unlikely.

An investigation is becoming a major rallying cry for a bigger battle to climax this fall, when the five-member FCC is to get four new members, including Mr. Hundt's successor.

"If people don't fight now, the battle could be over when the new commission takes over," warned Dan Jaffe, exec VP of the Association of National Advertisers. "We will be overrun."


U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy (D., Mass.) freely admitted he's using publicity about the FCC debate to drum up public support for restricting broadcast ads for all alcoholic products.

"What we have to do is raise the consciousness of the American people . . . What we need is to get a shift in the American public's opinion about the acceptance of liquor [ads] without recognition of the downside risk of drinking," Rep. Kennedy said.

Rep. Kennedy recently won consent from House Republicans to fund a $2 million study of the effects of alcoholic beverage ads on those under the legal drinking age in next year's appropriations for the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse & Alcoholism.

Also, Rep. Kennedy said he will introduce a "sense of the House" resolution answering FCC Commissioner James Quello's charge that Congress never gave the FCC the right to examine advertising. However, the chairmen of the two Senate panels that oversee the FCC and the Federal Trade Commission issued a joint letter last week urging the FCC not to take on an examination.

"We are not aware of any [law] that directs the FCC to ban or limit alcohol beverage advertising," said Conrad Burns (R., Mont.), chairman of the subcommittee on communications, and John Ashcroft (R., Mo.) chairman of the subcommittee on consumer affairs. "We believe that the FTC--and not the FCC--is the appropriate agency to investigate."


The ANA, in a letter to Mr. Hundt and the other commissioners, warned that Mr. Hundt's mention of using V-chips to screen broadcast alcoholic beverage ads and his proposal to require counteradvertising are "extremely dangerous."

Ad groups said the continuing discussion is prompting concern.

"This is a dangerous kind of initiative," said Hal Shoup, exec VP of the American Association of Advertising Agencies.

Copyright June 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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