• New Measures to Reduce Drinking in France and in the U.K.
  • April 8, 2004
  • Law Firm: Reed Smith LLP - Pittsburgh Office
  • Two initiatives targeting advertisers, one in France and the other in the U.K., to curb alcohol abuse may have significant implications for marketers. An Advocate General of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has recommended that France's ban on television advertising of alcohol is legal under European law. Advocate General Antonio Tizzano has advised the full ECJ to rule that though the ban restricts trade, France has a legitimate interest in promoting public health. Further, image masking techniques are so expensive as to be impractical, which means that Bacardi's claim that its ads should not be barred from France's TF1 would fail. Generally, recommendations by an Advocate General are accepted.

    As AdLaw By Request has reported, the EU Commission on Broadcasting has rejected Ireland's proposal to regulate television advertising shown in Ireland regardless of where the providers are based, because it would interfere with the goal of 'Television without Frontiers.' The recommendation by the Advocate General, however, upholds only a ban on events televised to the French viewing public, rather than international events that are broadcast in a large number of countries.

    The U.K. has announced its own plans to address the problem of alcohol abuse. Measures to be taken include "sensible drinking" public service messages and improved alcohol education in schools. Television advertising practices are also to be reviewed to ensure that younger drinkers are not targeted and that drinking is not glamorized. Manufacturers will be held to a "social responsibility charter" that requires clear product information and health warnings. Retailers also will be held to a "code of good conduct," which would include providing information about alcohol and its abuse.

    Why This Matters: It's one thing to regulate advertising, but quite another to ban it. Bans, by definition, prevent the dissemination of truthful speech and are counterproductive to an open and informed society. Nor is there sound research establishing that advertising has a material impact on the problem sought to be solved. The contrasting approach taken by France and the U.K. also illustrate how difficult it is for the European Union to adopt regulations that apply throughout Europe.