Government Report: June 20, 2007


House Committee Rejects DTC Advertising Restrictions
The House Energy and Commerce Committee Health Subcommittee rejected provisions of the Drug Safety Act, including giving the FDA authority to impose a three-year moratorium on prescription drug advertising, requiring preapproval of both individual DTC ads and comprehensive marketing plans and adding additional and unwieldy mandatory warning language to ads and packaging. An amendment introduced by Edolphus Towns, D-N.Y., repealed the restrictions on commercial speech contained in the original bill and gives the FDA authority to assess monetary penalties for advertising found to be false or misleading. This amendment is essentially similar to the Roberts-Harkin amendment that was passed by the Senate last month. This successful conclusion would likely not have happened without the many calls and e-mails from AAF members and other industry representatives. A number of the subcommittee members acknowledged the grassroots support for the Towns amendment in their presentations. A copy of the alert sent to AAF members is available here.
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Kellogg Announces Voluntary Advertising Restrictions
Kellogg Co. announced it will curtail advertising cereal and snack foods to children under 12 years old, unless the products meet minimum nutritional standards. Packaging will include an easy-to-read guide highlighting the nutritional information of the product. The company has also pledged to make changes to its Web site, including promoting healthy lifestyles and imposing screen time limits. Many food and beverage companies have voluntarily adopted similar advertising guidelines in recent years.
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Rep. Markey Announces Food Advertising Hearing
House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet Chairman Ed Markey, D-Mass., has sent letters to major food companies, urging them to implement children’s advertising guidelines similar to those announced by Kellogg or face congressional action. These companies have already made hundreds of changes to their products and marketing without government intervention. Markey announced he will examine food advertisements at a hearing concerning media influence on children this Friday.
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A La Carte Bill Introduced in House with FCC Support
The Family & Consumer Choice Act of 2007, introduced by Rep. Daniel Lipinski, D-Ill., would require cable companies to offer either an á la carte system or a family-friendly cable tier option or force cable companies to adopt broadcast television-style indecency standards. The bill received public support from Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin and co-sponsor Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb. Earlier this year, the FCC called for cable companies to offer á la carte lineup options as a means of blocking unwanted content. The concern regarding mandatory á la carte cable options is that they could result in a lack of niche, multicultural and religious programming.
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FCC Chairman Seeks Ways to Educate Public of Digital TV Transition
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin has indicated that the commission needs to do more to educate the public about the digital television transition scheduled for February 2009. House Energy and Commerce Chairman John Dingell, D-Mich., and House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet Chairman Ed Markey, D-Mass., have criticized the FCC for not acting quickly enough to inform consumers of the upcoming change. Martin circulated a notice of proposed rule making asking if broadcasters should be required to air public service announcements about the transition. The FCC was to submit formal transition plans to Congress before June 11 but has since requested an extension.
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