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Opposition to liquor ads may kill NBC plans

NEW YORK - Trenchant opposition to US television network NBC's plans to run advertising for spirit drinks -- or hard liquor as they are known in the US -- could be scuppered.

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NBC has been coming under fire from Congress and campaigning organisations, including the American Medical Association, which are opposed to such advertisements running on US television where beer advertisers are some of the nation's biggest ad spenders.

According to a report in the New York Times, the complaints could lead to Congressional hearings aimed at producing a bill banning broadcast of commercials for spirit drinks such as whisky and vodka.

Last month, rival network CBS said it has no plans to follow its rival US TV network NBC into accepting ads for hard liquor, which have not run on the major networks for more than 50 years. CBS made its position clear when CEO Leslie Moonves told the Television Critics Association that the network was against taking commercials for hard liquor, saying he did not feel it was the right thing to do.

NBC announced that it would begin running spirits advertising in December. It said the ads would air after 9pm and that it had lined up Guinness UDV, owned by Diageo and home of brands such as Smirnoff and Bailey's, as its first advertiser.

The network has some strict guidelines accompanying the change in policy: actors appearing in the ads must be at least 30 years old; the ads can only be broadcast in programmes where more than 85% of the audience is over 21 years of age; and no professional athletes can appear in the ads.

According to reports, those lined up against NBC may seek to turn back a decision in 1996 by the trade body for spirits, the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, to lift a voluntary ban against such commercials.

The council's change of heart allowed spirits companies to join marketers of beer, wine, and other alcoholic drinks in using television advertising.

However, while spots have appeared on local TV and cable they did not run on national primetime TV until December 15 2001, when Smirnoff vodka ran on Saturday Night Live on NBC.

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