April 2, 2009

Clark Rector Jr., Senior Vice President – Government Affairs
Robert Kohlmeyer, Manager – Government Affairs

House Approves Bill Giving FDA Tobacco Regulation Authority

By a 298-112 vote, the House of Representatives approved a bill that would transfer authority of tobacco regulation from the Federal Trade Commission to the Food and Drug Administration and impose severe advertising restrictions on tobacco products. Introduced by Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., H.R. 1256, the Family Smoking and Tobacco Control Act, would direct the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services to publish an interim rule enacting unprecedented advertising restrictions, including requiring many tobacco ads to be black text on a white background, mandating an in-ad government-dictated "brief statement" (in addition to the current surgeon general's warning), and banning all outdoor advertising for tobacco products within 1,000 feet of any elementary or secondary school or playground. The AAF has condemned the proposal, stating that “the legislation gives the wrong federal agency illegal and ineffective authority over tobacco advertising.” A copy of our media alert is available here.
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EU Consumers Commissioner Warns Of Behavioral Targeting Regulation

The European Union Consumers Commission warned online advertisers they must provide better online privacy tools or face increased regulation. In a roundtable discussion on online data protection, Commissioner Meglena Kuneva lambasted behavioral targeting on the Internet as “increasingly pervasive,” adding that “consumers understandably feel uncomfortable.” She called on businesses to establish self-regulatory “principles of acceptable behavior.” A copy of her remarks are available here.
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House Communications Subcommittee Chair Reiterates Disinterest in Fairness Doctrine Renewal

House Energy and Commerce Committee, Communications, Technology and the Internet Subcommittee Chairman Rick Boucher, D-Va., stressed that his subcommittee will not seek renewal of the fairness doctrine. “Let me tell you this morning that our subcommittee has no plans to reinstate the fairness doctrine,” he said in a speech at a National Association of Broadcasters conference. The Senate voted in March to prevent the FCC from reinstating the rule, and President Barack Obama has stated several times that he does not support it. Nevertheless, some are still concerned that the government might impose a weaker form of the fairness doctrine.
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Minnesota Considers Sales Tax on Online Files

The Minnesota House of Representatives is considering legislation that would extend the sales tax to the sale and purchase of “products that are transmitted digitally” in the state. Introduced by Rep. Jim Davnie, D-St. Paul, the language in the bill (H.F. 1980) would create new taxes on music, videos, audio books, games and ringtones. Of significant concern to advertisers is a clause in the bill that would tax the digital transmission of finished artwork, periodicals, and greeting cards. AAF Government Report will not be published while Congress is in recess for the next two weeks.

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