06-Aug-1998 Chronology of liquor advertising controversy
Seagram airs an ad for Crown Royal Canadian Whiskey on KRIS-TV, an ABC affiliate in Corpus Christi, Texas, breaking a long-standing, voluntary industry ban on broadcast liquor ads.  The ban had been in effect for 60 years on radio (since 1936) and 48 years (since 1948) on television.
The original of the chronology below can be found in the Liquor Ads Community Action Packet of the Center for Science in the Public Interest web site.

Booze News

Alcohol Policies Project

revised 8/6/98

A Rough Chronology of Broadcast Liquor Advertising Controversy


March Seagram airs a liquor ad on a small sports cable network; consumer and health groups protest violation of liquor-industry voluntary ban.

May Rep. Joseph Kennedy introduces the "Comprehensive Alcohol Abuse Prevention Bill" to "address a variety of issues in the areas of education, taxes and subsidies, advertisements, and beverage labeling that involve alcohol, its use and abuse."

June Seagram airs an ad for Crown Royal Canadian Whiskey on KRIS-TV, an ABC affiliate in Corpus Christi, Texas, breaking a long-standing, voluntary industry ban on broadcast liquor ads.  The ban had been in effect for 60 years on radio (since 1936) and 48 years (since 1948) on television.  Local and national groups protest; Rep. Kennedy and more than a dozen co-sponsors introduce the "Just Say No Act" (HR 3644) to ban liquor ads on radio and television to maintain status quo.  President Clinton (in a Saturday radio address) asks industry to go back to the ban.

August 53 groups and individuals (including 12 members of Congress) sign CSPI-sponsored full-page ad in the New York Times protesting Seagram's broadcast ads and break with the liquor-industry voluntary ban.

September Seagram begins TV ad campaign on New Hampshire stations that are part of the Boston TV market.  Federal Communications Commission Chairman Reed Hundt expresses concern about liquor ads on TV and radio.

October Mothers Against Drunk Driving writes President Clinton regarding concern about liquor ads on TV and radio.  Other distillers announce intentions to advertise on TV.  Seagram breaks radio campaign for Lime Twisted Gin.  FCC Chairman Hundt suggests FCC regulation of liquor ads, and promotes a ban on ads if voluntary restraint is ineffective.  Eisner Associates survey reveals a majority of Americans are concerned about liquor ads.  CSPI-led Coalition representatives meet with Chairman Hundt.

November FCC requests data from broadcasters airing liquor ads.  Advertising groups urge FCC to defer to FTC in regulation of broadcast ads for liquor.  Liquor-industry trade group, Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, drops 48-year voluntary ban on TV liquor ads.  President Clinton and Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott attack industry move as "simply irresponsible" and "a mistake."

CSPI Coalition meets with FCC Commissioners Ness, Quello (legal advisor), and Chong (legal advisor).  Senator John McCain, Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee says he will hold hearings early in 105th Congress.  25 US Representatives, led by Rep. Kennedy, write to Chairman Hundt, asking for an FCC investigation. State of Alaska petitions FCC for a ban on broadcast liquor ads (later endorsed by 13 states and Puerto Rico AL, AR, DE, HI, IA, KS, MD, MI, MN, ND, RI, UT, VT). National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence and 23 other groups issue a call to the FCC for a "counter-advertising" campaign.  Federal Trade Commission begins investigation of Seagram liquor ads and Stroh malt-liquor ads; later expands investigation to include Miller Brewing and Anheuser-Busch.  Advertising industry's National Advertising Review Council begins consideration of voluntary standards for advertising of legal products that might influence underage consumers, but later gives up after opposition from brewers.  TV networks and most large radio networks continue to refuse liquor ads.  CSPI requests that "control" state ABCs restrict sale of liquor products that advertise on TV and radio.  Washington State Liquor Control Board considers removing point-of-sale advertising of products that advertise in broadcast.

December Ads for Jaegermeister, a 70-proof liqueur, begin on California TV and radio stations.  Ads for Bailey's Irish Creme (a product distributed by Paddington Corp) run on scattered television stations.  Rep. Billy Tauzin, Chairman of the House Telecommunications Sub-Committee, indicates interest in hearings during new Congress.  Also, suggests that if beer and wine ads are broadcast, no reason liquor ads should not be, but hints that all should be channeled to late hours to avoid reaching children.  Rep. Tauzin also hints at potential for content restrictions, but prefers voluntary approach.  According to press reports, ads for liquor air on approximately 25 television and 50 radio stations.



January Sen. Conrad Burns, Chairman of the Senate Telecommunications Subcommittee, announces plans for hearings to be held in February.

February Senate Hearings postponed indefinitely. CSPI organizes a letter to all members of the House of Representatives urging their support for legislation to ban advertising of distilled spirits on radio and television; 60 organizations co-sign.

March Rep. Kennedy reintroduces the "Just Say No Act" (HR 1067); calls for prohibition of liquor advertisements "on any medium of electronic communications subject to the jurisdiction of the Federal Communications Commission."

April President Clinton urges FCC action on broadcast liquor advertising; calls on industry to respect former voluntary ban.  CSPI and 15 other groups run ad in The Hill, thanking broadcasters who are upholding the ban. Rep. Kennedy introduces the "Voluntary Alcohol Advertising Standards for Children Act" (HR 1292), an initiative to require television, cable, and radio broadcasters to develop industry standards to protect children from appeals to drink alcoholic beverages.  CSPI and more than 250 groups petition FCC for a Notice on Inquiry into all broadcast alcohol advertising to determine the effects on young people.

In Anheuser-Busch v. Schmoke, the Supreme Court refused to hear a First Amendment challenge to Baltimore's 1994 law banning alcohol and tobacco billboards in parts of the city, thereby letting stand an earlier decision of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal to uphold the ban. Previously, the Supreme Court had vacated the Circuit Court's decision to uphold the ban and asked the lower court to review the case in light the 44 Liquormart v. Rhode Island decision which struck down a state ban on liquor price advertising.  The lower court again upheld the ban.

May NCADD and MADD, along with 22 other groups, petition the FCC to require counter-ads to balance alcoholic beverage advertising in broadcast.  FCC Chairman Hundt announces his resignation upon the confirmation of a successor.

June FCC Chairman plans to have the Commission vote on his request for a Notice of Inquiry on June 19.  Attorney General Janet Reno announces her support of an FCC inquiry.  Commissioner Rachelle Chong blocks the June vote, delaying it for one month. Rep. Kennedy introduces H.Res. 171 to urge an FCC investigation into the effects of broadcast liquor ads on children.  CSPI and NCADD coordinate a letter to House members, signed by 135 groups including two state attorneys general, asking for support of Rep. Kennedy's resolution.  Center on Alcohol Advertising releases survey showing "strong support among Americans for a federal government study on the impact of alcohol advertising on teens and children."

July FCC votes not to issue a Notice of Inquiry.  Commissioners Hundt and Ness vote in favor of the NOI.  Commission Quello goes on record recognizing that these ads raise issues for the broadcast media and that the Commission both has the authority to address those issues and will do so in the future.  Advertising Age reports a new wave of broadcast rum advertisements by Seagram and Bacardi.  Allied Domecq ends its four-year, Telemundo advertising campaigns for Presidente and Don Pedro brands.

September Hiram Walker announces a radio campaign for Cutty Sark sponsored yacht race.  Seagram inserts a six-second, voice-over responsibility message at the start of its whisky ads, hoping to gain access to more stations.  Hiram Walker breaks new campaign for Kahlua White Russian liqueur.

November FCC swears in new members: Chairman William Kennard immediately announces his intention to investigate liquor ads; Commissioner Gloria Tristani is undecided; Commissioners Michael Powell and Harold Furchtgott-Roth question an FCC inquiry.  Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-LA), chair of the House subcommittee overseeing the FCC, also questions FCC action.

December Rep. Kennedy and 24 other Members of Congress write to Chairman Kennard to urge him to issue an NOI into broadcast liquor ads.



January Nationwide poll by Michigan State University and University of Missouri finds that a majority of adults support a ban on liquor ads and believe that liquor advertisers are trying to influence teenagers to consume their products.

February Chairman Kennard announces that liquor ads are "not on the top of the list" of FCC priorities.  Ad Age reports that Seagram's Chivas Regal ads are running on radio stations in Dallas, Houston, Miami and New York.  Separately, Ad Age reports that TV ads for T.G.I. Friday's frozen cocktails are being tested on local network affiliates and cable stations in Las Vegas, Miami, and New Orleans.  Other low-alcohol refreshers advertising on TV include Kahlua cocktails and Bailey's Irish Cream.

March FCC spokesman announces that the agency will delay an NOI until liquor ads run more extensively.

April Seagram CEO Edgar Bronfman announces that Seagram ads will soon be "widely advertised" on TV and radio.  Seagram ads have appeared on 107 television stations in 51 markets and 300 radio stations in 119 markets.

May Rep. Kennedy and others meet with Chairman Kennard to encourage him to bring a proposal for NOI on broadcast liquor ads to a vote at the June FCC meeting, scheduled for June 11.  MediaWeek reports that liquor advertisers appear to target markets with high concentrations of college students and popular tourist destinations, including: Boston, New Orleans, Las Vegas, Tampa, Orlando, Columbus, Syracuse.

June National poll by Chilton Research finds 70% of respondents agree that "[f]ederal agencies should examine whether alcohol advertising on television affects underage drinking."  Coalition for the Prevention of Alcohol Problems presents poll results to Chairman Kennard and reiterate need for FCC NOI.

July DISCUS airs "equivalency" ads in Washington, DC.  According to DISCUS president, the ads are intended "to send a message to the public about the practice of moderation."  Ads include camera shots of Chivas Regal, Crown Royal, Absolut, Jack Daniels, Bacardi, and other liquor bottles.  FCC Chairman Kennard suggests "canvass[ing] the networks" to determine the extent to which these ads are being aired.

Key opponents of broadcast liquor ads include President Bill Clinton, US Attorney General Janet Reno, Federal Communications Commission Chairman William Kennard, former Federal Communications Commission Chairman Reed Hundt, former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, dozens of members of Congress, and over 250 organizations.
Representative major organizations opposing liquor ads in broadcast and/or calling for a "counter-advertising" campaign to balance broadcast messages about alcohol: National PTA; American Academy of Pediatrics; Mothers Against Drunk Driving; US Catholic Conference; Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America; Join Together; National Family Partnership; National Families in Action; The Arc; American Society of Addiction Medicine; Center for Science in the Public Interest; National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence; Center for Media Education; Consumer Federation of America; American Public Health Association; American Nurses Association; National Organization on Adolescent Pregnancy; Parenting, and Prevention; divisions of the United Methodist Church and Southern Baptist Convention.