September 19, 2014


Continuing Resolution Includes Food Marketing Language

The Continuing Resolution introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives includes language prohibiting the Federal Trade Commission from moving ahead with implementation of the Interagency Working Group (IWG) proposed nutrition principles for food marketed to children without first conducting a cost-benefit analysis in accordance with a 2011 Executive Order prescribing regulatory courses of actions by federal agencies.  The Continuing Resolution is the all-encompassing legislation the Congress must pass in order to keep the federal government running in the next fiscal year.

At the same time, Senator Tom Harkin, D-Iowa and Representative Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn. and many of their Democratic colleagues have written to the Federal Trade Commission asking for increased oversight of food and beverage companies to ensure that they are making progress on reducing unhealthy food marketing to children.

The letter was sent as a study funded by the Robert Wood Johnson foundation found that major food manufacturers have cut calories in their packaged products by more than 10 percent over five years, substantially beating an industry-led pledge to trim 1.5 trillion calories by 2015.

In 2009 the 16 companies in the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation promised to cut 1.5 trillion calories from their products, compared to a 2007 baseline. But the study, authored by researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, found that the companies removed 6.4 trillion calories by 2012, more than quadrupling the pledged amount.

“Local Option” Plan Withdrawn

Leaders of the Senate Commerce Committeeproposed a plan to require local consumers choose which local broadcast channels they want to pay for being included in their cable or satellite television packages.  A so-called “al la carte” system, in which consumers could decide which channels they want to pay for, has been discussed in past years.  However, the proposal by Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., and ranking minority member John Thune, R-S.D., would have been applied only to local broadcast stations, not cable networks. 

AAF wrote to the Committee leaders expressing concern and urging more study of a proposal that could threaten to undermine the local broadcast model in which consumers can receive local news, sports and weather paid for with advertising revenues.  The provision had been included in an early draft of the Satellite Television Access and Viewers Rights Act and will likely be discussed again in the next session of Congress.  The bill was passed by the Commerce Committee September 17.  While Chairman Rockefeller will retire from Congress at the end of the year, Senator Thune is in line to Chair the Commerce Committee if Republicans gain control of the Senate after the November elections.

FCC Extends Comment Deadline

The comment period on the Federal Communications Commission’s controversial plan to create Internet “fast lanes”  ended with the Commission having received 3.7 million comments, more than double what it has ever received on any single issue.  Some Democratic members of Congress have urged the FCC to reclassify broadband Internet service as a “telecommunications service” instead of an “information service.”  This would give the Commission more power companies by drawing from the same legal authority traditionally used to regulate traditional wired phone lines.  FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has said he plans to finalize the rules by the end of the year.

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