FCC has No Rules Against Beer Ads

WASHINGTON: There’s a misperception among broadcasters that the FCC has limits on beer ads, David Oxenford says, but that doesn’t mean there are no restrictions at all.

“Many programming providers and rights holders themselves limited the kinds of ads that could accompany their programs,” he writes in the Davis Wright Tremaine’s Broadcast Law Blog. “The rights-holder restrictions were demonstrated this past week, when the University of Wisconsin reportedly banned beer advertising on broadcast coverage of its school's football games.”

The prohibition is aimed at radio, The Associated Press reported. UW-Madison ended sponsorship agreements with MillerCoors and Anheuser-Busch that brought the school nearly $425,000 a year. The university decided not to renew the agreements in campuswide effort to curb binge drinking. UW’s new policy bans beer ads during football games, men’s and women’s basketball and hockey coverage, as well as TV interviews with coaches. The decision emerged just as Anheuser-Busch back-peddled some of its “Fan Cans,” emblazoned with various university colors.

“Private contracts from program suppliers and rights holders, including sports programming from schools and colleges, often include restrictions against certain types of advertising which, if breached, can carry contractual penalties including the potential for the cancellation of a station's authority to continue to carry the programming,” Oxenford writes. “Especially where such rights were the subject of competitive bargaining, broadcasters want to insure that they do not violate these restrictions and put their valuable programming rights at risk.”

Oxenford, a media attorney with DWT, said the FCC never directly regulated liquor ads, but instead ask those broadcasters seeking licenses to adhere to the NAB’s voluntary code of conduct prohibiting hard liquor ads. The code ultimately was found unconstitutional and abandon, eliminating FCC review.

Oxenford’s complete post is available at Davis Wright Tremaine’s Broadcast Law Blog.

(Image by Eduardo Mugica)
More on beer advertising:
August 27, 2009: “University of Wisconsin Bans Beer Ads...” at Madison.com.