Government Report: February 26, 2007

Contents:

Senate HELP Committee Leaders Reintroduce DTC Moratorium Bill
Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., and Ranking Member Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., have reintroduced their bill aimed at overhauling the way the Food and Drug Administration and pharmaceutical companies conduct drug safety tests. The Enhancing Drug Safety and Innovation Act (S. 484) would impose restrictions on how new drugs are marketed. The advertising industry opposes two provisions of the bill. One provision would allow the FDA to preclear and add disclosures to direct-to-consumer advertisements at its discretion. The other would give the FDA authority to impose up to a two-year moratorium on newly approved drugs as a condition of its approval. Sen. Kennedy has indicated that the HELP Committee will examine and consider the bill this spring, likely in late March. The AAF and industry representatives have been expressing our opposition to the advertising provisions of the bill to staff members of the HELP Committee.

Sens. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., and Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, have introduced separate legislation (S. 468) that would modify the Food and Drug Administration’s safety review system for previously approved drugs but would not impose advertising moratoriums or require preclearance of ads.
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Sen. Kennedy Introduces FDA Tobacco Regulation Bill
Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., and Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., have introduced legislation giving the Food and Drug Administration regulatory power over tobacco products, including advertising. In doing so, the bill would give the FDA the authority to restrict advertising of tobacco products and mandate stronger warning labels on them. The bill would prohibit any health claims, such as reduced risk, without approval from the FDA. The AAF believes these proposed limits on speech are unconstitutional. We do not take a position on which government agency should regulate tobacco advertisements.
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FCC Food Marketing Task Force Meeting Convened
A government-organized task force meeting to discuss media and food industry steps in combating childhood obesity was postponed due to weather, but a conference call has yielded some organizational direction. Senators Sam Brownback, R-Kan., and Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, along with FCC Chairman Kevin Martin and Commissioners Deborah Taylor Tate and Michael Copps, are convening the meetings and are in discussions with major food and media companies and trade associations. AAF President & CEO Wally Snyder represents the AAF on the task force.
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FCC Seeks Violence Regulation Authority
The Federal Communications Commission has issued a report to Congress seeking the power to regulate violence on television in the same manner as it regulates indecency. The report suggests that cable companies should be required to offer "á la carte" cable lineup options to allow consumers to pick and choose cable networks at their discretion, rather than limiting them to specific packages. The FCC has changed its position several times on whether á la carte options would ultimately benefit consumers.
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State Advertising Tax Measures Proposed
Two advertising tax measures have been proposed at the state level. In Michigan, Governor Jennifer Granholm, a Democrat, has proposed a two percent tax on most services to help offset a different business tax set to expire this year. The governor’s proposal would tax advertising agency services but specifically excludes media purchases.

In Iowa, Rep. Pam Jochum, D-Dubuque, has introduced a bill that would place a one percent tax on political advertising to help fund campaign finance reform. Because the state’s revenue department has indicated it considers such a tax discriminatory, some members of the subcommittee have discussed altering the bill to impose the full sales tax rate on all advertising in order to raise revenue for the clean election fund established by the bill. The AAF is working with our local club members to fight these proposals.
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Advertising Ban Legislation Introduced in Tennessee
New legislation introduced in the Tennessee state senate would fine broadcast and cable stations up to $50,000 if they air advertisements for obscene matter. Sen. Doug Jackson, D-Dickson, named his bill "Girls Gone Wild Be Gone" after seeing a television commercial for adult videos. The Federal Communications Commission has jurisdiction over broadcast television regulation. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., introduced a bill in 2005 that would have expanded FCC authority over indecency regulation to include cable and satellite programming, in addition to broadcast television, but the bill was never considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
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