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ARCHIVED -  Public Notice CRTC 1991-65

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Public Notice

Ottawa, 21 June 1991
Public Notice CRTC 1991-65
Commission's Findings with Respect to its Proposal to Eliminate the Distinction between Broadcast Advertising of Beer, Wine, Cider, Coolers and Spirits
In Public Notice CRTC 1990-86 dated 11 September 1990, the CRTC called for comments regarding a proposal to eliminate the distinction between broadcast advertising of beer, wine, cider, coolers and spirits from the Television Broadcasting Regulations, 1987, the Radio Regulations, 1986 and the Specialty Services Regulations, 1990 (the regulations). Under the proposed regulatory amendments, broadcast advertising of spirits would be subject to the same rules that are currently applied to commercial messages for alcoholic beverages with 7% or less of distilled spirits (beer, wine, cider and coolers). Public comments were requested regarding specific evidence (or the lack thereof) in support of, or against, the distinction made under the existing regulations. The Commission, without wishing to limit the scope of the discussion, asked for evidence demonstrating whether there are distinctions between beer, wine, and spirits as they relate to issues such as drunk driving, domestic violence and absenteeism from work. The Commission received a total of 582 comments as follows. Most comments (79%) were from individuals. Less than 1% of those individuals favoured permitting broadcast advertising of spirits; 35% were in favour of retaining the status quo, and the majority (64%) wanted all alcoholic beverages to be banned, without exception, from broadcast advertising.
All of the fourteen comments received from federal, provincial and municipal governments opposed broadcast advertising of spirits. Of these, a majority suggested a total ban and the remainder preferred the status quo.
Ninety-eight responses were received from interest groups. A small number of those stated that advertising of spirits should be permitted in the broadcast media, generally on the grounds that they are roughly equivalent to other forms of alcohol and that a ban on advertising would perpetuate the myth that beer and wine are less harmful than spirits. Approximately one third of the groups preferred the status quo. Again, the majority opposed broadcast advertising of all alcoholic beverages.
A further ten comments were submitted by individual broadcasters and their industry associations, advertisers or manufacturers and their associations, and advertising agencies or their associations. They were all in support of allowing broadcast advertisement of spirits. Few of the 582 submissions included any scientific evidence in support of the arguments made. Of the studies provided, none addressed the issues in such a manner as to distinguish between spirits and other alcoholic beverages in terms of their effects and their relationship to broadcast advertising.
In the public notice calling for comments on this important matter, the Commission made reference to legal proceedings initiated by The Association of Canadian Distillers (ACD). Subsequent to the deadline for the receipt of comments on the proposed regulatory amendments, the ACD insisted that the legal proceedings it had instituted challenging the constitutional validity of the Commission's prohibition against the advertising of spirits proceed without further delay.
The ACD submits that the current ban against broadcast advertising of spirits infringes upon its freedom of expression as guaranteed in subsection 2(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (the Charter), and cannot be justified under section 1 of the Charter. Under the latter provision, a limitation on a right or freedom guaranteed in the Charter must be a reasonable one, prescribed by law and demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.
At this time, given that this matter is currently before the Federal Court, and that few of the comments received supported the proposed change, the Commission has decided not to alter its regulations on the advertising of alcoholic beverages. Any further action by the Commission will await the result of the legal proceedings. The Commission notes the extent of public comment on this important matter and thanks all those who participated in the process.
Allan J. Darling
Secretary General