Local reaction to NBC running hard liquor ads

Saturday, December 15th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

For the past 60 years, there's been a voluntary ban on ads for hard liquor on network TV. But broadcasters are looking for new sources of advertising cash.

NBC says it will air a Public Service Message during Saturday Night Live, that's sponsored by Smirnoff Vodka. It's an unprecedented move, and it's drawing a lot of criticism nationwide. News on Six reporter Steve Berg talked with some people locally. He also visited an Oklahoma Highway Patrol checkpoint Friday night. Checkpoints like this have been a very successful tool in the fight against drunk driving. Now there are some who are worried these TV ads are a step in the wrong direction.

A drunk driver killed Gary Henderson’s daughter more than 9 years ago. And he's a member of the group Mothers Against Drunk Driving. He doesn't know if hard liquor ads on TV will increase drunk driving. But he can't imagine it will help the situation. He wonders what will happen when Smirnoff is done with its initial run of Public Service Announcements to encourage responsible drinking. "I don't know if they will continue to run PSA's then and point that out or if they will just strictly be trying to sell the product." The head of the American Medical Association says NBC is putting its desire for profit ahead of the nation's health. And even a First Amendment expert says it's a terrible idea.

At one local liquor store in Tulsa, they think it's much ado about nothing. They don't see it having an effect one way or the other. Steve Hebard, Liquor store clerk, "I couldn't speak for the general population, but I've always been a big advocate of personal responsibility, and I don't see that being changed by something on television. I think the advertisers are hoping that it'll lead to an increased amount of sales, but I don't even think that will happen." Henderson says he too will also take a wait and see approach, but he agrees that ultimately the only reason for the ads. “Is to sell liquor, yeah, that's true."

Hard liquor has been advertised sporadically on cable and on various affiliates around the country. But this will be the first time there has been such an ad on network TV.