January 29, 2009

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

House Fails to Pass Digital TV Transition Delay Bill

While the full Senate unanimously approved a bill that would have delayed the analog-to-digital television transition from February 17 to June 12, the House of Representatives voted 258–168 in favor of it, but failed to reach a two-thirds majority required for passage because of the special legislative process used that expedites legislation by limiting debate. House Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Joe Barton, R-Texas, led the opposition, and has since introduced a bill that would provide additional funds for converter box coupons without moving the transition date. It is possible that the House will revote next week using a conventional process that mandates full debate. Under those rules, the bill would only need to pass by a simple majority. House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., said that he is working with Congressional leadership and President Obama's administration to "explore all available options." The American Advertising Federation, Association of National Advertisers, and American Association of Advertising Agencies issued a statement in advance of the vote supporting the delay, stating that according to Nielsen Media Research, as of January 2009, 6.5 million households are "completely unready" for digital-only broadcasts, and another 10.5 million households contained at least one television that was not ready to receive digital signals. A copy of the statement is available here.
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FCC Commissioner Warns Against Fairness Doctrine

In a speech to the Media Institute, Federal Communications Commissioner Robert McDowell warned against any attempt to reimpose the fairness doctrine. He suggested that the doctrine would not be reintroduced using the same name but could be included as part of localism, diversity or network neutrality efforts, stating, "According to some, the premise of any of these initiatives is similar to the philosophical underpinnings of the doctrine: the government must keep electronic conduits of information viewpoint neutral." In the speech, McDowell noted that while campaigning, President Barack Obama said that he did not support the doctrine, and expounded that the new administration should state "its strong opposition to anything resembling the fairness doctrine." The fairness doctrine requires broadcasters to air contrasting points of view on controversial issues and was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1987.
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NARC Board Expands

The National Advertising Review Council announced the expansion of its board to include the CEOs of the Electronic Retailing Association, the Direct Marketing Association and the Interactive Advertising Bureau. The move represents the first expansion of the NARC board since the organization was created in 1971 by the American Advertising Federation, American Association of Advertising Agencies, Association of National Advertisers and the Council of Better Business Bureaus Inc. "The ERA, DMA and IAB are strong, effective supporters of self-regulation," said Eric Mower, NARC board chair and president and CEO of Eric Mower and Associates, Syracuse, N.Y. NARC's goal is to foster truth and accuracy in national advertising through voluntary self-regulation.
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AAF Hosts Rep. Christopher Murphy, D-Conn.

The AAF members participated in meet and greet this week with Rep. Christopher Murphy, D-Conn. The event, held at AAF's headquarters in Washington, D.C., allowed advertising industry representatives to discuss recent accomplishments and future challenges in advertising regulation. Rep. Murphy is a new member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has primary jurisdiction over many advertising issues. Attendees highlighted direct-to-consumer advertising, food marketing to children and online behavioral targeting as issues likely to receive continued congressional attention in the coming year. The AAF will host another meet and greet in New York City this week with Congressman Joe Crowley, D-N.Y., and will host Congressman Brian Higgins, D-N.Y., in Washington on February 25.
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