Coalition for the Prevention of Alcohol Problems
1220 L St., NW, Suite 300
Washington, DC 20005


June 23, 1998

 

Chairman William Kennard
Federal Communications Commission
1919 M Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20554

Re: Broadcast Advertising of Alcoholic Beverages

Dear Mr. Kennard:

We are writing once again to urge the Federal Communications Commission to commence a Notice of Inquiry to examine issues raised by the introduction of liquor advertising on radio and television. Recent developments have strengthened the need for the creation of a public record on this important issue. The FCC is one key agency where concerned citizens’ voices should be heard and a public record developed.

An FCC examination of broadcast alcohol advertising has the overwhelming support of the American people. A public opinion poll conducted by Chilton Research Services earlier this month found that 70% of Americans agree that "federal agencies should examine whether alcohol advertising on television affects underage drinking."

Donna Shalala, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, recognized that those ads have an effect on young people. In a January speech to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), she referred to "[NIAAA] research suggesting that advertising may influence adolescents to be more favorably disposed to drinking," and called on the NCAA to sever the tie between college sports and drinking: "Completely. Absolutely. And forever." Other studies confirm that a majority of adolescents say that alcohol advertising encourages them to drink.

Reducing the pressure on young people to drink has never been more important or more timely. Last winter, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism released a study documenting that children who begin to drink alcohol at younger ages are at significantly higher risk of becoming alcohol dependent (as adults) than those who begin later. The latest national data on high-school drinking reflect that large numbers of junior and senior high school students already drink heavily on a regular basis: 16% of 8th graders, 25% of 10th graders, and 30% of 12th graders report binge drinking in the two weeks prior to the Monitoring the Future survey.

Although liquor ads have not yet "flooded" the airwaves (thanks to network broadcasters’ refusal to accept them), expenditures for them have increased dramatically, up some 150% between 1995 and 1996. The Seagram Company’s ads have aired on 107 television stations in 51 markets around the country. Its radio ads have aired on 300 radio stations in 119 markets. Seagram CEO Edgar Bronfman recently stated that his company plans to broaden the number of markets in which it advertises and increase the number of its liquor spots. This imminent expansion of liquor advertising in the broadcast media can only increase the risks faced by young people today.

The President, the Attorney General, fifteen state attorneys general, hundreds of health and safety organizations, members of Congress, and a strong majority of the American people support a federal examination of the effects of broadcast liquor advertising on underage drinking. The FCC has the authority and responsibility to insure that the electronic media serve the public interest. Further delay in fulfilling that responsibility can potentially subject America’s children to excessive risks related to current and future alcohol use.

We urge you to commence work with other FCC commissioners to launch a Notice of Inquiry relating to issues raised by the introduction of liquor ads into broadcast. An opportunity for the public to be heard on these issues is long overdue and desperately needed to address questions that concern parents, educators, government officials, lawmakers, and health and safety experts throughout the country.

We look forward to supporting your efforts to insure that the nation’s airwaves serve the public interest and the best interests of America’s children.

Sincerely,

Sarah Kayson
Director for Public Policy
National Council on Alcoholism
and Drug Dependence

George A. Hacker
Director, Alcohol Policies Project
Center for Science in the Public Interest


Co-Chairs: George Hacker, Center for Science in the Public Interest, (202) 332-9110, ext. 343
Sarah Kayson, National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, (202) 737-8122

Steering Committee: Susan Hildebrandt, American Academy of Family Physicians, (202) 232-9033
Elaine Holland, American Academy of Pediatrics, (202) 347-8600
Jeff Jacobs, American Public Health Association, (202) 789-5648
Bill McColl, National Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors, (703) 741-7686
Maribeth Oakes, National PTA, (202) 289-6790
Mel Davis, United Methodist Church, General Board of Global Ministries, (202) 488-5653
Kathy McGinley, The ARC (202) 785-3388
William C. Dodson, Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, (202) 547-8105
Kathleen Sheehan, National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors, (202) 783-6868