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International: NBC drops hard-liquor ads

23-March-2002
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International: NBC drops hard-liquor ads

NBC has announced it was scuttling its plan to run hard-liquor advertising. NBC had previously created a stir with its December announcement that it would become the first TV network to air hard-liquor ads.

In a surprise statement today, the network, a unit of General Electric Co., cited congressional requests from the "bipartisan leadership" of the House and Senate commerce committees as the reason it had suddenly rescinded its new alcohol policy. The company said it was also pulling the "social responsibility" ads it has been running since December for Smirnoff vodka, a product of Diageo's Guinness UDV North America.

"NBC and Diageo are to be commended for responsible alcohol advertising. There would have been more social responsibility messages about drinking on television that ever before," said Council President Peter Cressy. "Sadly a few misguided critics through their attacks on NBC have undercut this effort."

He said that over the last five years more than 400 broadcast stations and cable systems reaching 67% of households have aired distilled spirits advertising.

In December, NBC, in a break with industry practice, accepted hard-liquor advertising from Diageo. At the same time, NBC issued guidelines: only programs where at least 85% of viewers are 21 or older would have the ads, and distilled spirits advertisers had run four months of social responsibility spots before starting regular product ads. Diageo could have begun Smirnoff product ads April 15.

NBC’s announcement came on the eve of a press conference at which MADD officials and U.S. Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif., were planning to urge broadcasters to adopt stricter policies for all alcohol advertising.

When NBC announced its policy, the plan drew little attention from either the Federal Communications Commission or from Congress. But in February, 13 congressmen sent General Electric Co.'s NBC a stern letter warning of possible recriminations if the network goes ahead with its plan to air liquor ads in April.

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