For Immediate Release: April 24, 1997
Contact: George Hacker 202/332-9110, ext. 343

Public Interest Organizations From Every State Call For Action

More than 240 organizations from every state in the Union today urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to waste no more time before launching a full investigation into broadcast alcohol commercials that reach and appeal to millions of children.

The groups urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) not to abandon America's children to liquor, beer, and wine marketers. They formally petitioned the FCC to examine the effects on children of radio and television advertising for all forms of alcoholic beverages.

George Hacker, director of the Alcohol Policies Project at the non-profit Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), which coordinated the petition, said, "The FCC is supposed to insure that broadcasters serve the public interest. It has acted to shield children from harmful programming, including obscenity and indecency. Helping protect our children from the seduction of alcohol advertisements certainly deserves as much attention."

James E. Copple, President and CEO of Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA), which represents 4,300 coalitions across the country, said, "We have looked in the past to alcohol marketers for restraint in their advertising. That restraint has broken down. We call upon the FCC to conduct a thorough and balanced investigation into whether public airwaves are being used to induce our children to drink."

The groups said that the decision by the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States to abandon its 48-year voluntary ban on broadcast ads raises "significant public interest issues" requiring a comprehensive Notice of Inquiry by the FCC.

Beer and wine industries alone poured $700 million into broadcast advertising in 1995. Citing the glut of youth-oriented advertising, the petition also documented numerous risks and consequences of youth drinking that could be aggravated by liquor commercials on television and radio.

For youth, alcohol use more than any other single factor is responsible for more pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases, and HIV infections. Alcohol is a factor in the three leading causes of death for youth aged 15 to 20 years: unintentional injuries (including motor vehicle crashes), homicides, and suicides.

Earlier this month, President Clinton urged the FCC to investigate the effects of liquor commercials on young people. In addition to the President, some two dozen U.S. Representatives, led by Joseph P. Kennedy II (D-MA), have requested an FCC investigation of liquor advertising on radio and television.

Twelve states and Puerto Rico have joined a petition to the agency filed last summer by Alaska's Governor Knowles seeking a ban on broadcast liquor ads. Broadcasters, advertisers, and alcoholic-beverage producers oppose Commission action.

The petition filed today, however, seeks an expanded inquiry into beer and wine advertising as well as liquor commercials.

The petition calls for the FCC Notice of Inquiry to focus on three issues:

Whether permitting liquor and other alcoholic-beverage commercials is consistent with the FCC's responsibility to serve the public interest;

Whether the FCC should take regulatory action to ban such advertisements, limit ads to particular time slots, propose informational campaigns to discourage underage alcohol consumption, or otherwise reduce the influence of alcohol commercials on audiences below the legal drinking age;

Whether new legislation is necessary to serve the public interest.

"We welcome public discussion and review of alcohol advertising standards," said Hacker. "This petition by national, state, and local organizations that represent tens of millions of Americans, demonstrates widespread concern about the expansion of alcohol advertising in the broadcast media. It reflects the failure of the alcoholic-beverage industries' voluntary advertising guidelines to protect kids from a steady torrent of alcohol ads. Parents need the Commission's help, not its indifference."

"Broadcasters, advertisers, and alcoholic-beverage companies will claim that they have a Constitutional right to air beer, wine, and liquor commercials that reach millions of children," Hacker said. "The Constitution is not a suicide pact. The FCC -- and Congress -- have the power to act to protect children from inducements to drink that are transmitted on the public airwaves. Challenges based on the First Amendment, for example, have failed to overturn FCC restrictions and a Congressional ban on broadcast advertising for cigarettes."

Joining in the petition, besides CSPI, are the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Family Physicians, American Public Health Association, Center for Media Education, Children's Defense Fund, Child Welfare League of America, Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America, Consumer Federation of America, Latino Council on Alcohol and Tobacco, National Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors, National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, National Organization for Victim Assistance, National PRIDE, National Family Partnership, National Families in Action, National PTA, Trauma Foundation, and Victims Rights Political Action Committee.

The complete list of petitioners, which is available upon request, also includes dozens of other national, state and local health-promotion, child-advocacy, safety, and alcohol treatment and prevention groups. Copies of the petition also are available.

CSPI is a nonprofit health-advocacy organization that focuses on alcoholic-beverage problems, nutrition, and food safety. Based in Washington, D.C., it is supported in large part by the 900,000 subscribers to its Nutrition Action Healthletter. It does not accept funding from industry or government.