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Text Of A Letter From The President To Reed E. Hundt, Chairman Of The Federal Communications Commision

April 1, 1997

Dear Chairman Hundt:

I write to ask your assistance in addressing a new and emerging challenge to parents struggling to raise safe, healthy children: the decision by manufacturers of hard liquor to advertise on television.

For half a century, these companies voluntarily refrained from such advertising. They understood that advertising over the uniquely powerful and pervasive medium of broadcasting could reach children inappropriately, encouraging them to drink before it is even legal for them to do so. Until now, these companies have shown appropriate restraint. For as long as there has been television, they have known that a voluntary ban was right and they lived by it.

Now, some companies have broken ranks and started placing hard liquor ads on TV. I was greatly disappointed by their decision. I have previously expressed my dismay at this action and called on the industry to urge all its members to return to their long-standing policy and stand by the ban. I am gratified to learn that, according to one survey, the vast majority of television stations are declining to air these advertisements. I applaud that stand.

I firmly believe that we have a national obligation to act strongly to protect our children from threats to their health and safety. That's why I have fought so strongly to impose appropriate regulations on the sale and distribution of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco and tobacco advertising that appeals to adolescents, to ensure that our schools and children are safe and drug-free, and to combat gangs and violence afflicting our youth.

I applaud your public remarks calling on the industry and broadcasters to reactivate the voluntary ban. I also commend your comments that the Federal Communications Commission has an obligation to consider any and all actions that would protect the public interest in the use of the public airwaves.

I urge the Commission to take all appropriate actions to explore what effects might ensue in light of the decision by manufacturers of hard liquor to abandon their long-standing voluntary ban on television advertising, specifically the impact on underage drinking.

We have made tremendous progress in recent years reducing the incidence of deaths due to drunk driving among our youth. We have taken important steps including the increase in the 1980s in the drinking age to 21 and the passage of zero tolerance legislation for underage drinking and driving. But there is more to be done. Too many of our young people are dying in car crashes, and too many young people are starting to drink at an early age, leading to alcohol and other substance abuse problems.

I would appreciate your help and the help of the Commission in exploring the possible actions you could take to support our parents and children in response to the manufacturers' decision to break with the long and honorable tradition of not advertising on the broadcast medium.

Sincerely,

WILLIAM J. CLINTON


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