Government Report: June 13, 2007


House Subcommittee to Consider Bill With Severe Advertising Restrictions
The Health Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee will take up drug safety legislation next week with several provisions that would severely restrict truthful pharmaceutical advertising. The bill proposed by Health Subcommittee Chairman Frank Pallone, D-N.J., would impose a three-year ban on ads for new medications, require preapproval of advertising content by the Food and Drug Administration, mandate warning language about nonspecific, unidentified adverse events, mandate warning symbols for all new drugs and require preapproval of a medication’s marketing plan by the FDA. The AAF opposes these provisions because they are unconstitutional restrictions on commercial speech and because they would harm consumers by taking away a valuable source of information. An amendment to the bill proposed by Reps. Edolphus Towns, D-N.Y., and Steve Buyer, R-Ind., would adopt language similar to that in the Senate version of the bill (S. 1082), which would give the FDA authority to levy fines against pharmaceutical companies for false or misleading advertising. The AAF supports this amendment and has asked local club members to contact their representative on the Health Subcommittee to oppose the advertising restrictions of the bill. A copy of the alert sent to members is available here.
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FTC Research Finds Children’s Exposure to TV Ads Declining
A study released by the Federal Trade Commission found that American children see fewer television advertisements than they did in 30 years ago. The study, formally introduced last week, used 2004 Nielsen Media Research/Nielsen Monitor-Plus data and found that the average number of food advertisements seen by children aged two to 11 decreased from 6,004 in 1977 to 5,538 in 2004, while nonfood advertisements decreased from 13,629 in 1977 to 12,706 in 2004. The category including public service messages and other promotional advertising was the only one with an increase in number of ads viewed. The study was first presented at the FTC/HHS workshop on marketing, self-regulation and childhood obesity in July 2005. The FTC and HHS are hosting a follow-up meeting to the workshop on July 18, 2007, to review industry initiatives and innovations. AAF President & CEO Wally Snyder will be a participant in the forum. A copy of the study is available here.
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FCC Live Television Obscene Language Fines Overturned
A federal appeals court overruled a Federal Communications Commission policy that fined broadcast networks and affiliates for accidentally airing obscene language during live television events. All four major broadcast networks filed a lawsuit against the "fleeting expletives" policy, saying that any government regulation of content violates the First Amendment. The case could be appealed in the Supreme Court and might drastically alter the FCC’s ability to regulate speech on broadcast television and radio.
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New York Bill Would Prohibit Use of Deceased Celebrities for Commercial Use
A bill introduced in the New York Legislature would prohibit advertisers and marketers from using the names or likenesses of deceased celebrities for commercial profit. If enacted, the bill would impose a misdemeanor charge against anyone found using a celebrity’s name, image, voice recording or signature "for the purposes of trade" without consent by the celebrity’s estate. The protection could last for up to 70 years after a celebrity’s death. In May, a U.S. District Court ruled in favor of a T-shirt company producing images of Marilyn Monroe for sale, saying that state law in Indiana, where the T-shirt company is based, does not protect celebrity identities after death.
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