Hollings wants to dry up liquor ads

Feb 18, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Ernest Hollings, D-S.C., told Electronic Media last week that he may hold hearings on the advertising of hard liquor on television because of NBC’s decision late last year to permit such spots.
The senator would bring renewed national media attention to the issue with any hearings because he’s the upper chamber’s most powerful regulator of the television business and has oversight of the Federal Communications Commission and its funding.
“That could come out because definitely they shouldn’t be running liquor ads on television,” he said during an impromptu interview in the corridors of the U.S. Capitol.
He also said he’d consider examining the broader issue of alcohol ads on TV, not just spirits spots.
“What they’ve got [are] notices now on the bottles of liquor and everything else like that. And that was a compromise that they would put that on and stay off of TV,” the senator said. “Now they’ve breached that general understanding [by] going forward with these liquor ads on television.”
On whether NBC should be barred from airing the spots, he said, “I’m not talking about NBC or any particular broadcast [network]. I’m talking, generally speaking, on television it shouldn’t be done.”
Noting that he’s been distracted lately by the Enron scandal and a host of other pressing issues, he said he hasn’t had the time to sit down with Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the panel’s ranking Republican, to agree on a date for such hearings.
NBC executives were unavailable for comment.
On other matters:
* The senator said it’s unclear whether the Bush administration will try to revive a controversial plan to revamp the way the government reviews mergers, including media deals. The White House wants only the Justice Department, and not the Federal Trade Commission, to scrutinize all media-related combinations, but Sen. Hollings wants the FTC to retain its authority. Sen. Hollings’ staffers and FTC and Justice aides have been discussing the issue.
* Sen. Hollings reiterated his strong opposition to the so-called Tauzin-Dingell bill, which removes regulatory restrictions on the Baby Bell phone companies so they can go head to head against cable broadband providers. Critics said the bill rewards the Bells, which still have local phone monopolies. “It’s a total farce, saying it’s going to promote competition when it’s just extending the monopoly-that’s all they’re doing,” he said.