Newsbrief: FCC Says Anti-Drug Ads Must Identify White House Sponsorship 11/15/02

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The drug czar's office must identify itself as the sponsor of public service announcements broadcast under the auspices of the White House anti-drug advertising campaign, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ruled on November 8. As a result of the ruling, broadcasters will be required to insert taglines reading "sponsored by the Office of National Drug Control Policy" on the spots now airing on TV and radio across the country.

Under federal law, public service announcements must identify the sponsor, but the Ad Council, which created many of the ads, had petitioned the agency to allow them to run without an identifying tagline. In its petition to the FCC, the Ad Council argued that such a required identification would interfere with the anti-drug message and may prompt some media companies to back away from the campaign. (It remains unclear just how requiring the identification would harm the message or frighten media companies.)

Ad Council President-CEO Peggy Conlon told Advertising Age Wednesday that the ruling was "outrageous" and charged it would "take away one of the most important tools that we have in keeping children off drugs." She also suggested the ruling conflicted with the congressional legislation creating the youth anti-drug ad campaign.

The FCC disagreed. "It is not the nature of the message conveyed in the broadcast material that determines whether an identification is required, but rather whether or not a station receives valuable consideration for broadcasting it," the FCC ruled.

The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) and the Media Awareness Project had challenged the Ad Council's request for an exemption. "This decision affirms that the Drug Czar's office must abide by the same federal laws as everyone else," said NORML Director Keith Stroup in a press release. "When an entity, particularly the federal government, purchases on-air time to persuade the public audience, the public has a legal right under the law to know that they are hearing or viewing content which has been paid for, and they also have a legal right to know who has paid for it. Just because that content is sponsored by the ONDCP under the guise of fighting the 'war on drugs' does not waive this federal requirement."

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Issue #263, 11/15/02 The Week Online Needs Your Help! | Massachusetts: Marijuana on the Move? | Anaheim Conference Reinvigorates Battered Reformers -- Hundreds Gather to Examine Defeats, Plot New Strategies | Narco News Interview with Gustavo de Greiff | Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cop Story | Newsbrief: FCC Says Anti-Drug Ads Must Identify White House Sponsorship | Newsbrief: San Diego Medical Marijuana Rally to Go Transnational | Newsbrief: Hungry Utah Cops Nibbling at Edges of Asset Forfeiture Reform Law, Lying Through Their Teeth as They Campaign | Newsbrief: Free Speech Battle in Tampa after Leafleting Arrest | Newsbrief: Canada Gives Go-Ahead to Safe Injection Sites, First to Open Early Next Year | Newsbrief: Pain Doctor Hurwitz Raided in Virginia | Newsbrief: Pain Doctor Weitzel Retrial Underway in Utah | Newsbrief: Arkansas Prisons Say Methamphetamine Penalties Should Be Lowered | Newsbrief: Border Patrol Begins Random Stops in Michigan | Web Scan: Washington Office on Latin America, Andean Information Network, Latin America Working Group, Miami Herald, Harry Levine | Harm Reduction Coalition Seeking Articles and Artwork for "The Anonymous Issue" | Action Alerts: Rave Bill, Medical Marijuana, Higher Education Act Drug Provision, Tulia, Salvia Divinorum | The Reformer's Calendar
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