March 14, 2008

Jeff Perlman, Executive Vice President – Government Affairs
Clark Rector Jr., Senior Vice President – State Government Affairs
Robert Kohlmeyer, Manager – Government Affairs

House Health Subcommittee Approves FDA Tobacco Regulation Bill With Advertising Restrictions

The Health Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee approved a bill to give the Food and Drug Administration jurisdiction over tobacco products and their advertising. The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (H.R. 1108), introduced by Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., would grant the FDA authority to impose "specific bans or restrictions on the time, place and manner" of tobacco ads and allow state governments to further restrict ad placement. The Senate version of the bill was approved last year. While the AAF does not take a stance on which agency should regulate tobacco, we have concerns with the proposed restrictions on commercial speech in the bill and have sent letters to members of Congress warning of the First Amendment problems with the proposal. A copy of the letter is available here.
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FCC Agrees on DTV Transition Public Service Campaign

The Federal Communications Commission and broadcasters have agreed to an education campaign to inform viewers of the ongoing analog-to-digital television transition scheduled for completion in February 2009. Broadcasters will run at least one 15-second public service advertisement and one on-screen crawl per quarter from now until April, increasing the minimum to two PSAs and crawls per quarter from April to October and three per quarter from October until February. The four quarters are defined as 6:01 a.m. to noon, 12:01 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., 6:01 p.m. to midnight, and 12:01 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. Notably, the plan does not require broadcasters to air PSAs during primetime programming. Initially, the FCC called for a greater number of ads, but broadcasters argued that fewer PSAs combined with other outreach efforts would better educate the public.
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House Judiciary Chairman Questions Net Neutrality

In a committee hearing on net neutrality, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., said that lawmakers should not impose net neutrality mandates unless there were proof that telecommunications companies were engaging in anticompetitive behavior. Last month, House Subcommittee on Telecommunication and the Internet Chairman Ed Markey, D-Mass., introduced a bill (H.R. 5353) that would direct the Federal Communications Commission to investigate whether Internet service providers restrict the speed at which users access certain content online. FCC Chairman Kevin Martin recently warned that he might levy fines against companies who unfairly slow the delivery of Web content.
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