Chinese TV channel bans liquor ads from prime time

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BEIJING -- China Central Television (CCTV), the country's only national TV station, has banned from 1998 the advertising of spirits during the peak prime time viewing period. Tan Xisong, director of CCTV Advertisement and Economic Information Centre, says the new restriction also bars "corporate" image campaigns for liquor producers during the prime time period of 7 p.m and 8 p.m.

The move by the highly influential CCTV to restrict liquor ads comes at a time when liquor ads are rampant and have aroused strong criticism from the public and the news media. Last year, the Qinchi Distillery in Shandong Province of East China won the bidding for the annual auction for advertising rights during the prime time slot for an entire year. Qinchi has won the bid war for several years running. Until it began advertising on television, Qinchi was an obscure distillery in a rural area that made a white liquor called baijiu. Now it is a major marketer and critics have dubbed Qinchi the "bidding King."

Spirits advertising has become the target of public criticism because some say liquor production consumes too much grain and the product has harmful effects. In February China Daily, the government's only national English- language daily newspaper, said in an opinion piece that CCTV, which has about one billion regular viewers, should not earn the "outrageous sum" of $38.6m from liquor ads.

The decision of CCTV not to allow liquor makers to bid for the prime time advertising is viewed as the TV station being sensitive to public opinion.

Copyright October 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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