Lawmakers Livid at Liquor-Fuelled NBC

21 December 2001

Last week’s decision by NBC to air ads for hard liquor [WAMN: 14-Dec-01] – breaking a longstanding tacit agreement between the big TV networks – met a frosty reception among some of America’s lawmakers, who have asked the broadcaster to reconsider.

“NBC has been a good corporate citizen,” fumed Representative Frank Wolf (Republican, Virginia). “Why spoil that now by a shameful act that hurts American families, is detrimental to young people and will have an extremely harmful consequence for those who are fighting to overcome addiction problems?”

Wolf has co-written a letter with Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard (Democrat, California) to NBC and its parent General Electric, blasting the decision. “It is a sad commentary that your bottom line today is more important to your company than the lives of young people tempted to drink or recovering alcoholics trying to beat their disease,” the duo opined.

“That,” retorted NBC, “[is] precisely why we’ve been so vigilant in setting high standards to ensure that the audience for these ads is overwhelmingly adult.”

All liquor spots must be run after 9 pm and at times when at least 85% of viewers are aged 21 and above. In addition, NBC will not air commercials starring active professional athletes.

The network added that liquor ads are already a feature of cable and local TV, arguing that “the viewer doesn't distinguish between a local broadcast advertisement or something that the network puts on.”

Such sentiments did not placate Wolf, who blasted NBC’s guidelines as a “window-dressing approach” which “may ease corporate conscience, but it will not satisfy moms and dads whose teenage sons and daughters see a sophisticated liquor ad and decide to be grown up and go drinking with friends.”

Rival networks CBS, ABC and Fox announced they had no plans to alter their policies towards liquor advertising “at this time.”

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