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Federal Communications Commission Chairman Reed Hundt last week resigned his post, but marketing and advertising groups are still worried about what regulatory steps he will try to initiate in a rush before leaving.

Mr. Hundt said he would stay until his replacement had been confirmed, a process that in one recent instance had an FCC chairman lasting 10 additional months.


Last week, Mr. Hundt told reporters he still hoped to initiate an inquiry into alcoholic beverage advertising before his departure.

"If I could get Microsoft to hire him any faster I would," said Elizabeth Board, director of public issues for the Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S., in a half joking reference to a rumored hiring that's been denied by both Microsoft Corp. and Mr. Hundt.

DISCUS has been battling Mr. Hundt's efforts to make sure broadcasters not run distilled spirits spots.

"I am not going to wait. I am going to see if this stuff can fly," said Mr. Hundt. He followed the comment by scheduling a June 19 commission vote on opening the inquiry, and last week circulated a notice to FCC commissioners outlining a proposed inquiry into issues raised by the advertising of distilled spirits on TV.

Mr. Hundt appears to not have the votes to open an inquiry, however. With one vacancy on the commission, the current four-member FCC has been evenly split on taking up any look at alcoholic beverage advertising. In the past, the split has prompted Mr. Hundt to choose to speak out against broadcasters while trying to persuade other commissioners to go along.


With last week's resignation offer, there is no longer any reason to wait. Mr. Hundt has expanded his original interest in liquor advertising on TV to a broader inquiry into broadcast ads for beer and wine, a $700 million-a-year revenue stream for broadcasters.

"Alcohol ads are on Reed Hundt's radar screen and he's not a lame duck," said John Kamp, VP of the American Association of Advertising Agencies. "This duck is soaring, and he is not in any way hesitating. We are very worried."

Ms. Board agreed. "He wants to get hard liquor off the air and he is not leaving for at least six months," she said.

Mr. Hundt may also try to push the FCC's look into public service issues for broadcasters, including the airing of PSAs.


As for the future, four of the five members of the FCC will be new after Mr. Hundt is replaced, making for an uncertain agenda.

"It is going to be in a state of massive confusion," said Dan Jaffe, exec VP of the Association of National Advertisers. "There has never been as much turnover. There are so [many] permutations and combinations."

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