to Communications Press from George Hacker, Director, Alcohol Policies Project
DATE: June 9, 1997
RE: Public Interest Advocates Question Quello Position on Liquor Advertising
Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Reed Hundt has proposed a Notice of Inquiry (NOI) to gather facts and inform the public on broadcast liquor advertising. He plans to seek a Commission vote on the NOI at its June 19 meeting. Commissioner James Quello has stated that he will oppose any FCC role and has threatened to block the NOI vote.
Public health and safety advocates are troubled by Commissioner Quello's double standard in defining broadcasters' public interest responsibilities regarding indecent language versus liquor advertising that may promote underage drinking. We believe the public deserves answers to the following questions.
QUESTIONS FOR COMMISSIONER QUELLO:
1. You stated last October that you could see the FCC in an advisory role to action by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Doesn't the Notice of Inquiry provide just that advisory role given the current FTC investigations into alcohol ads?
2. In connection with indecency and obscene broadcasts, you have said that "the FCC has broad discretion in determining and implementing the public interest." Why should the FCC have any less discretion when it comes to broadcast liquor advertising that might promote illegal sales to minors? Doesn't the FCC have adequate discretion to launch an NOI to gather and report the facts related to this use of public airwaves?
3. In a 1994 speech you called Howard Stern's repeated violation of the FCC indecency rules a "serious nationwide matter," and proposed a "thorough review by a full Commission." You have acknowledged that alcoholism is a serious national problem and you have said that liquor ads that appeal to young people could raise a public interest question. Broadcast liquor advertising could add to the pressure on youth to drink and undermine Federal policy on the legal drinking age. Why are you threatening to block even a modest inquiry into this issue?
4. What would your reaction be if the networks began to carry the ads?
5. Isn't it true, that except for the liquor industry, no one knows how many stations are airing liquor ads?
Note: Though Commissioner Quello has not yet agreed to meet with the public health and safety organizations which have petitioned the FCC, he is scheduled to appear at three upcoming broadcasters' conferences:
COMMISSIONER QUELLO QUOTED ON THE PUBLIC INTEREST RESPONSIBILITIES OF BROADCASTERS ON THE FCC PROTECTING THE PUBLIC INTEREST:
ON LIQUOR ADVERTISING:
ON THE FIRST AMENDMENT:
ON SEX AND VIOLENCE AND CHILDREN:
1. Commissioner Quello at the FCBA, Washington, DC, March 17, 1994.
2. Press Statement of Commissioner Quello, November 18, 1996.
3. Commissioner Quello at the Bayliss Broadcast Foundation, New York, October 30, 1996.
4. Commissioner Quello at the NAB's Children's Television Symposium, Washington, DC, September 21, 1995.