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NEWS BRIEFS: April 1997


Over 240 public interest groups from every state urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to begin an investigation into broadcast alcohol commercials that reach and appeal to millions of children. They formally petitioned FCC to examine the effects on children of radio and TV advertising for all forms of alcoholic beverages. The groups said the decision by the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States to abandon its 48-year voluntary ban on broadcast ads raises "significant public interest issues" requiring a comprehensive Notice of Inquiry by FCC.

The petition seeks an expanded inquiry into beer and wine advertising as well as liquor commercials. It calls for the FCC Notice of Inquiry to focus on three issues:

(CSPI Press Release, April 24, 1997.)

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FTC made final its consent order with Uno Restaurant Corporation, Pizzeria Uno Corporation, and Uno Restaurants, Inc., settling charges that they falsely claimed that their "Thinzettas" line of thin crust pizzas was low fat. The consent order bars respondents from misrepresenting the existence or amount of fat or any other nutrient or substance in any pizza or other "baked crust" food products.

NOTE: A consent agreement is for settlement purposes only and does not constitute an admission of a law violation. When the Commission issues a consent order on a final basis, it carries the force of law with respect to future actions. Each violation of such an order may result in a civil penalty of $11,000.

(Uno Restaurant Corporation, et al., FTC File No. 962 3150, FTC Dkt. No. C-3730, April 11, 1997; materials relating to this FTC matter are available on the Internet at FTC's World Wide Web site at:; see also Advertising Compliance Service, Tab #4, False, Unfair, Deceptive, Article #78.)


Under its routine monitoring program, the Children's Advertising Review Unit (CARU) reviewed some 3,110 TV commercials in March 1997. And that total is in addition to its review of advertising in print and other media. Four TV commercials and two print ads came to CARU's attention through its routine monitoring. For example, in a commercial for Rose Art, Inc. the question dealt with what was included in the initial product purchase. CARU concluded that the commercial fully complied with the Self-Regulatory Guidelines for Children's Advertising.

(CARU Activity Report, April 1997.)


Portland Advertising Federation (PAF) executive director Kim Schwabauer recently testified in opposition to an Oregon bill targeting lottery advertising. Schwabauer was concerned with the fact that the measure singled out of advertising, something she called "a dangerous precedent." She added:

"Any product or service deemed unpopular by a single group is vulnerable. We oppose the restricting of advertising on any legal product."

Indeed, American Advertising Federation (AAF) president Wally Snyder flew to Oregon recently to join the fight against this legislation, (Senate Bill 16) which would eliminate funding for advertising the state lottery.

"If you have a lottery and you want it unequivocally to succeed, you must advertise it," Snyder told the state Senate Trade & Economic Development Committee.

S.B. 16 had been voted out of committee and was slated for action on the floor. PAF is warning its members to stay concerned since S.B. 16 still limits advertising for a legal product.

(Source: AAF Government Report, April 1997.)


Several states are looking at advertising as sources of revenue in these tight budget times. The Texas legislature is considering taxing advertising and other services to provide property tax relief and increase state support for public schools. Many AAF advertising federation leaders in Texas have contacted lawmakers to warn them of the economic harm to the advertising industry and the state if an ad tax is enacted. Minnesota lawmakers are considering a bill (House File 688), that would ban outdoor tobacco advertising there. On March 19, 1997, AAF legal counsel and First Amendment expert Dan Troy testified against the measure before the House Commerce Committee. Members of the three AAF advertising federations in Minnesota are sending letters opposing the legislation to lawmakers. In Nebraska, members of the Advertising Federation of Lincoln and the Omaha Federation of Advertising played a key role in killing LB 381 which would have banned casino advertising in that state. In Washington, the Pierce County (Tacoma), Washington Board of Health banned all outdoor tobacco advertising, effective March 1, 1997. A legal challenge to the law was initiated.

(Source: AAF Government Report, April 1997.)


Starting May 2, 1997, "menu descriptions of the health or nutrition benefits of food items are illegal if the restaurant can't back them up," according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI).Restaurants using descriptions like "heart-healthy," "light," or "low fat" must comply with standards set by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). They also must give customers, on request, nutrition information about the claims. CSPI had fought a long but successful battle for the new requirements.

"Many restaurants have made menu claims that exaggerate the nutritional value of their foods," CSPI staff attorney Leila Farzan said. "FDA's new truth-in-menu regulation," Farzan said, "will help ensure that restaurant menus live up to their claims--and perhaps even feature more healthy meals."

Similar regulations required by the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990 have been in effect for grocery store food packaging since 1994, but FDA failed to extend the rules to claims made on restaurant menus.

In response to a lawsuit filed by Public Citizen and the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled last year that restaurant menus are covered by the law.

(CSPI Press Release, April 29, 1997.)

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