Statement of Congressman Joseph
P. Kennedy II on the Introduction of the "Voluntary Alcohol Advertising Standards for
This Bud's for you ... It's Miller Time ...
Tap into the Rockies ... I love you Man ... these phrases have become familiar sounds in
the living rooms of homes across the country. Soon, you will also be able to recall
slogans for Seagram's Crown Royal whiskey and Hiram Walker's Kahlua liqueur, and a host of
other spirits. In too many cases, it is children that are influenced by such ads --
remembering and reciting these jingles, leading many to their first drink of alcohol in
hopes of imitating the athletic, academic, or social success by being sold to them over
April 10, 1997
The Wall Street Journal and Ad Age reported on the
prevalence of alcohol advertising on television stations and during programming that have
large youth audiences. For example, beer ads were shown to run frequently on MTV, a rock
music station that is popular with kids. So the message to kids is to sit down with a brew
to watch Beavis and Butt-Head?
Alcohol use and abuse among our children is on the rise.
Alcohol-related deaths are the number one killer of people under the age of twenty-four --
killing more than 100,000 people each year, five times as many as the death toll from
illicit drugs. There are approximately 18 million alcoholics or problem drinkers in our
country, 4 million of whom are minors.
We spend $15 billion a year fighting the war on drugs in this
country. Yet alcohol, America's number one drug, is promoted by billions of dollars in
slick ad campaigns that tell kids if they want to be the first down the mountain, or get a
good-looking date, or win the bicycle race, all they need to do is drink a beer, a wine
cooler, or a shot of whiskey.
For nearly fifty years the Distilled Spirits Council of the United
States (DISCUS) had the right idea. As model corporate citizens, they voluntarily agreed
not to advertise their product on television.
However, by ending their voluntary industry ban last November, they
made a decision to lower the bar at a time when it needs to be raised.
The hard liquor industry had a legitimate argument that they were at
a competitive disadvantage under their old code because the beer and wine industries
advertise aggressively. But they took the wrong direction in an effort to even the playing
field. We want fewer alcohol advertisements on television, not more.
I have in the past, and will again, introduce legislation which
places specific restrictions on all alcohol advertising (beer, wine, and distilled
spirits) -- particularly where alcohol products are being marketed to young audiences.
These bills, the Just Say No Act and
the Comprehensive Alcohol Abuse Prevention Act, prescribe specific restrictions with which
I feel the alcoholic beverage industry should comply.
However, today we are embarking on a new, voluntary approach to
solving this problem -- not to be confused, though, as abandoning old strategies. We are
convinced that television broadcasters, under their public interest obligations, should be
expected to add their voices to this important debate by developing a voluntary code of
conduct for alcohol advertising that will limit the exposure of such ads to children.
Some broadcasters have taken the first step. When the hard liquor
industry abandoned its voluntary pledge not to advertise on television, all of the major
network stations publicly stated that they would not accept their ads. Yet viewing
audiences have been baptized with hard liquor ads around the country because network
affiliates have agreed to air them. More can and should be done about all televised
alcohol advertising that targets young audiences.
The legislation that I will introduce with my colleagues today, the "Voluntary Alcohol Advertising
Standards for Children Act," is a tool that will bring to bear a new benchmark
for responsible advertising of beer, wine, and distilled spirits. Under this legislation,
an anti-trust exemption is established so that television broadcasters can come together
to devise the new code of "kid- friendly" standards.
While the legislation does not prescribe or mandate what the final
code should look like, it does lay out five general guidelines for consideration:
- Content - Alcoholic beverage companies often market their products by
using sex, fantasy, sports figures, cartoons, and fast music. Advertisements using such
content clearly have a strong market appeal to youthful audiences.
- Frequency - Families should be able to turn on their televisions
without being overwhelmed with alcohol advertising campaigns. Alcohol ads should not be
airing in homes at a rate that surpasses advertisements of other products.
- Timing - Children are less likely to be watching TV late at night.
Alcohol advertisements should not be airing during prime time viewing hours or hours when
children are likely to be a significant portion of the overall viewing audience.
- Program Placement - What television shows are sandwiched in between
alcohol advertisements? "The X-Files" ? Early Saturday sporting events? Alcohol
ads should not be aired immediately preceding, during, or directly following television
programming that has a significant youth audience.
- Balanced Messages - Some deliberation should be given to the issue of
balancing advertisements promoting alcohol consumption with public information messages
about the risks of alcohol use by minors.
This bill would give the broadcasters one year to develop their
code. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is required to approve the code before
it is implemented, seeking public comment. If after one year, the broadcasters fail to
develop their own standards, the FCC is given the authority to impose their own code,
using the same five guidelines.
Any FCC-imposed code must be developed in a partnership with an
advisory committee composed of parents, broadcasters, public interest groups, and other
interested individuals from the private sector. The final, approved code would be enforced
as a regulation by the FCC, punishable by monetary penalties.
This is largely a "hands-off" governmental approach.
Regulators do not get involved in the creation of this code unless broadcasters abandon
their responsibility to do so.
Alcohol is not a legal product for consumption by minors and
therefore should not be advertised in a manner, place, or time where children are likely
to be influenced. This legislation gives concerned parents and the public a voice in
protecting their children from negative influences. And this bill gives broadcasters the
latitude to voluntarily develop alcohol advertising standards which they believe will
protect children under their public interest obligations. All would be served well by
passage of this legislation.
Hacker's Statement] [Press Release
on Rep. Kennedy's Bill]