Government Report: June 28, 2007

Contents:

House Committee Approves Drug Safety Bill
The House Energy and Commerce Committee approved the Drug Safety Act without a new-drug advertising moratorium or an advertising preapproval requirement. Like the Senate version, the bill would give the Food and Drug Administration authority to assess monetary penalties for false or misleading advertising. An amendment to the original bill introduced by Reps. Edolphus Towns, D-N.Y., and Steve Buyer, R-Ind., added the provision while removing advertising restrictions, which had included 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. The bill must now be considered by the full House, which is expected to happen in July.
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DTC Bill Would Tax Advertising of New Prescription Drugs
A bill introduced by Rep. Pete Stark, D-Calif., would effectively create a tax on advertising by denying the tax deductibility of advertising for new drugs. The Fair Balance Prescription Drug Advertisement Act would create specific guidelines on the ways risks and benefits are presented in direct-to-consumer advertising and deny tax deductibility of any advertisement found to violate the rules. Newly introduced drugs would not be allowed to have their advertising costs deducted for tax purposes.

Similar proposals have been introduced in the past but were not enacted into law. Despite near-consensus in both the House and Senate on the importance of not limiting consumer access to information about pharmaceutical
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Sen. Rockefeller Calls for Government Regulation of Violent Content
Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., held a Senate Commerce Committee hearing on the effects of televised violence on children during which he reaffirmed plans to introduce legislation giving the Federal Communications Commission the power to regulate violent content on television. Other senators on the committee noted that defining what constitutes violent content would be difficult and regulating such content might be unconstitutional. Peter Liguori, president of entertainment at Fox Television, cited the industry’s use of a ratings system with descriptors and the V-chip as positive ways broadcasters and parents can ensure that children are not exposed to inappropriate content. The AAF and the industry sent a letter opposing the FCC proposal to regulate violent content, arguing that regulating television violence "would impose either wholesale censorship or an incomprehensible standard." A copy of the letter is available here.
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Rep. Markey Holds Hearing on Media Impact on Children
House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet Chairman Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., held a hearing concerning the impact of media and advertising on children, where he called on food companies to restrict their food advertising to children. One of Markey’s proposals for government intervention is a bill that would give the Federal Communications Commission the authority to regulate food advertising to children. Another announced idea is prohibiting snack food advertisements during the three hours a week of educational programming required by the government. FCC Commissioners Kevin Martin and Michael Copps, along with Sens. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., and Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, are working with the food and media industries on a task force aimed at combating child obesity and will present a report to the public next month. While the hearing was called to examine images of smoking, violence and food advertising, most of the testimony of the representatives at the hearing was on food marketing and childhood obesity.
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Supreme Court Eases Political Advertising Restrictions
The Supreme Court has ruled that political advertisements leading up to elections may be paid for by interest groups unless the ads explicitly call for a vote for or against a single candidate. The decision invalidates parts of the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Finance Act, introduced by Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Russ Feingold, D-Wis. Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts said that restrictions on advertisements paid for by groups unaffiliated with a campaign are censorship of political speech.
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Congress will be in recess next week for Independence Day. AAF Government Report will not be published.

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