Robert C. (Bob) Wright
Vice Chairman and Executive Officer, General Electric
Chairman and CEO, NBC
30 Rockefeller Plaza
New York, NY 10112
Fax: (212) 664-7288

Dear Mr. Wright:

I am dismayed by NBC’s decision to start airing hard-liquor ads. I strongly urge you to reconsider your policy and order the reinstatement of the NBC’s longstanding voluntary ban on hard liquor ads.

Too many influences already promote drinking by underage youth and hard-liquor ads on NBC can only make that problem worse. Comprehensive research conducted at Michigan State University and the University of Missouri during the past five years confirms that hard-liquor ads on TV would significantly increase the pressures to drink on our nation’s youth. That study found that 15- to 20-year-olds who had greater exposure to TV liquor advertising were more likely to have intentions to drink liquor when older than those with lesser exposure to those ads.  Half the young respondents said that such ads teach them which brands taste best, how other people use alcohol, and which brands are most popular.

Alcohol is by far America’s number-one youth drug problem. It kills six times more kids than all illicit drugs combined and underage drinking costs our country an estimated $52 billion per year. According to the latest government data, nearly one-third of all 12- to 20-year-olds report using alcohol within the past month. Of those youth, nearly 20 percent binge drink.

Young people are especially susceptible to harm associated with drinking. The age of first alcohol use strongly predicts future alcohol dependence. Those who start drinking before the age of 15 are four times more likely to become alcoholics than those who wait until they are 21. Adolescents who consume alcohol are more likely to engage in high risk behaviors, such as becoming sexually active at an earlier age and having unprotected sex (placing them at greater risk of HIV infection and other sexually transmitted diseases). Alcohol use by young people also contributes to higher rates of clinical depression, academic problems, crime victimization, and sexual assault.

I am concerned that your "responsibility" guidelines are inadequate to protect kids from increased exposure to alcohol promotion. At the very least, credible, effective responsibility standards for alcoholic-beverage advertising would:

  1. Apply to all alcohol (including beer and wine, as well as distilled spirits);
  2. Require "equal time" for independent alcohol-prevention messages developed by public health experts, not by the alcohol beverage industry;
  3. Meet demographic targeting standards that limit the total number (as well as the percentage of the total audience) of underage persons that would be reached by alcoholic-beverage advertising to insure that the underage audience for such ads is insignificant.
  4. Require that commercials include health warning messages alerting consumers to a wide range of risks related to alcohol consumption.

I (we) have contacted my representative and senators in the United States Congress to express my (our) concern about NBC’s acceptance of liquor ads. I (we) have urged them to consider tougher restrictions on all alcohol advertising on network television because voluntary standards do not seem to be working.



Click here to view action alert on broadcast liquor ads.

January 2002