of George Hacker
Director, Alcohol Policies Project
June 10, 1997
Whose interests is Commissioner Rachelle Chong serving at the Federal Communications Commission? She refuses to meet with public interest groups concerned about liquor ads in the public airwaves, and she characterizes an attempt by Chairman Reed Hundt to gather facts on the issue as an exercise in "censorship."
Finding out the effects of broadcast liquor ads on kids serves the public interest. Putting her head in the sand, ostrich-like, as Commissioner Chong has done, serves only the interests of liquor marketers and broadcasters who commercially exploit the airwaves for private gain.
Full and open debate on the liquor advertising issue, as Chairman Hundt has proposed in his request for a Notice of Inquiry, honors the spirit of the First Amendment. Cutting off debate and issuing charges of "censorship" demean it.
Commissioner Chong has apparently made up her mind on the question of whether the FCC has jurisdiction to examine the effects of liquor ads on kids. We question how anyone could conclude that the FCC -- charged with ensuring that the public's airwaves are used in the public interest -- does not have jurisdiction over such ads transmitted over the public airwaves. It is simply intolerable that an FCC Commissioner would decide the jurisdictional issue without the benefit of full and open discussion, something which an NOI would provide.
We urge Commissioner Chong to honor the requests of the President, two dozen members of Congress, thirteen state attorneys general, 240 public interest groups, and thousands of citizens and join her colleagues on the Commission to begin an inquiry into liquor ads on radio and television.