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Fear Frist will tank beer ads

Dec 30, 2002  •  Post A Comment

While Sen. Bill Frist may be the toast of Washington with his recent confirmation as Senate majority leader, the TV industry is holding off raising its glass just yet.
Industry sources are concerned that Sen. Frist, a surgeon by trade, may prove to be sympathetic to a recent plea by the American Medical Association to restrict beer ads on television and to similar calls to regulate everything from junk food to video violence.
The Tennessee Republican has previously backed legislation to crack down on marketing of tobacco products to children.
“Frist is not going to ignore the calls of the AMA and other health groups,” said Jeff Chester, executive director of the watchdog Center for Digital Democracy.
But Dan Jaffe, executive VP of the Association of National Advertisers, said there is no reason to believe the lawmaker will do the bidding of the AMA or other health organizations.
“While he will listen to the AMA and other medical groups, his history suggests he will dance to his own tune,” Mr. Jaffe said.
Industry sources also said Sen. Frist was supportive of the broadcast industry’s efforts to defeat a proposal by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., that would have required broadcasters to provide free advertising time to political candidates.
“He mostly has supported our interests and issues,” said Whit Adamson, president of the Tennessee Association of Broadcasters.
Still, sources said broadcasters won’t enjoy the same access to the leadership’s office they had with Sen. Frist’s predecessor, Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., a longtime personal friend of Eddie Fritts, president and CEO of the National Association of Broadcasters.
“With Lott around, the broadcasters had nothing to fear,” said Mr. Chester. “Frist’s ascendance means a major political wound has opened up against the NAB and broadcasters everywhere.”