WASHINGTON –Yesterday, NBC relinquished free speech rights, by opting not to air distilled spirits advertisements on television. The decision came after several groups, including a non-partisan group comprised of House and Senate Commerce Committee leaders, asked NBC to reconsider their policy on the advertising until further discussion with public health and interest groups.
Taxpayer advocate Grover Norquist, who heads Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) in Washington, called the ruling "ridiculous," and stated that it "thwarts the free speech rights of advertisers and networks alike."
Unrealistically high standards prohibit any drinking in distilled spirits ads, glamorization of alcohol, as well as all suggestions that drinking is a rite of passage or that distilled spirits will enhance one\’s attractiveness. NBC even required distilled spirits advertisers to run four months worth of social responsibility messages before they ran any product advertisements. Yet, organizations like the American Medical Association pressed for an outright ban of the ads on television.
Distilled Spirits Council President Peter Cressy expressed disappointment in the networks decision, "There would have been more social responsibility messages about drinking on television than ever before. Sadly, a few misguided critics through their attacks on NBC have undercut this effort."
NBC will not be part of some 400 broadcast stations nationwide and cable systems representing 67% of all households that have aired distilled spirit ads over the past five years with broad public acceptance.
Norquist continued, "It is a shame when special interest pressure groups can force an enormous organization like NBC to give up their right to practice free speech, and it is even more appaling when this right would have created ample awareness on a cultural topic that will not diminish – even if the ads do."