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Editorial: Peacock drops the bottle on hard-liquor ads

Mar 25, 2002  •  Post A Comment

NBC, this Bud’s for you.
And make no mistake, that ain’t a compliment.
We long have been advocates of allowing hard-liquor advertising on TV, including on the major broadcast networks.
Thus, we applauded NBC’s decision last December to take ads for distilled spirits.
And we just as loudly admonish the network for announcing last week that it has reversed that decision. Clearly, as they say, someone got to somebody to queer the deal.
In this case, it appears that the primary event mucking up the works was that some powerful congressmen and senators decided to hold hearings on the matter if NBC didn’t back down.
This reportedly came as a surprise to NBC, whose executives thought they had greased enough wheels along the Beltway to prevent any spotlight shining on the question of alcohol advertising.
Given the volatility of politicians, we find it amazing that NBC was counting on their silence for the deal to go through.
When NBC announced its decision to accept hard-liquor advertising, it could not have been so naive as to imagine that it would not ignite a firestorm among some special-interest groups and some politicians.
Hard liquor is a legal product. And it should be welcomed as a national TV advertiser, just as beer is. Hundreds of TV and radio stations and many cable outlets have been airing distilled-spirits ads for some time, with little to no hue and cry from the public.
As Mothers Against Drunk Driving has long pointed out, alcohol is alcohol.
Furthermore, MADD notes that beer, not hard liquor, is the alcohol of choice for most underage drinkers and most drunk drivers.
While we have long advocated the welcome of hard-liquor advertising on TV, we also recognize that Americans may want to place limitations on this advertising.
Again, we don’t have a problem with that. That is a separate issue. It comes under the heading of social policy, which can be debated. Indeed, MADD, which does not advocate a ban on alcohol advertising, is now lobbying for congressional hearings to look into stricter standards for all alcohol ads.
Of course, NBC should not be surprised by this either. Certainly it knew that its controversial decision was also going to put beer advertising in the spotlight. And no doubt the beer makers were also pressuring NBC to reverse its decision on distilled-liquor advertising.
How hypocritical, by the way, for some congressmen to suddenly become incensed when NBC said it was going to take hard-liquor ads. Haven’t they been listening to federally funded National Public Radio, of which one underwriter is Glenmorangie Single Highland Malt Scotch Whisky-86 proof?