In recent months, there have been many calls to regulate e-cigs, and potentially to regulate the marketing of all sorts of vaping products, including a call last week by an FCC Commissioner in an op-ed article in USA Today.  As we wrote several months ago, these suggestions have been based in the fear that increased promotion of vaping products have led to an increase in tobacco use among children.  While the FDA has been taking efforts to crack down on flavored vaping products to reduce their appeal to kids, the makers of e-cigs still advertise, including on radio and TV.  And those advertisements bring us frequent questions about whether the FCC has rules about advertising these products.  So far, the FCC has had no real role in regulating these products.  In fact, one wonders if it really has any authority to take action against the advertising of e-cigs without Congressional action.

So far, all the limits on e-cig advertising have been imposed by other agencies – principally, the FDA.  The FDA requires a tag on all vaping ads, stating that these products contain nicotine, which is an addictive substance (see our articles here and here for more details about that requirement).  And these ads should not claim health benefits for vaping.  Given the FDA’s concern about children, any ads should also stay out of programming with a large audience of children.  Could the FCC itself do more?
Continue Reading A Call to Regulate E-Cig Advertising – What is the FCC’s Role in Regulating Advertising For the Vices?

On Monday, the US Supreme Court issued an opinion striking down a Federal law (the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act or “PASPA”) which prohibited state legislatures from taking any action to legalize betting on sports. PASPA also contained a restriction on advertising sports betting. The state of New Jersey challenged that law, arguing that it improperly limited the authority of state legislatures to act. The Supreme Court agreed, and invalidated the entire Act, including the restriction on advertising sports betting. Some trade press articles have suggested that this signals a boom for broadcasters and other ad-supported media companies as companies rush to start advertising legal sports betting now that the prohibition is gone. While in the long run that may be true, and there may be immediate benefits to stations in certain states, there are numerous caveats for broadcasters to consider before they recognize an advertising boom from sports betting companies.

The entire decision was not based on any analysis of whether or not betting on sports is a good thing, but instead it was a decision based exclusively on a question of state’s rights. The Supreme Court determined that Congress cannot tell state legislatures what they can and cannot do. While Congress may have the authority to ban or otherwise regulate sports betting, if they wanted to regulate it, they should have done so directly. Instead, as the law prohibited state legislatures from taking action to legalize sports betting and other actions predicated on that limitation on states rights, the Supreme Court determined that this was an exercise of authority that Congress does not have – Congress can’t tell state legislatures what to do. Based on the Court’s analysis that all parts of the act were premised on this ban on state legislative actions, the entire law was struck down. That means that there is no blanket federal ban on sports betting, and it leaves each state to regulate as it may wish. For companies ready to take bets on sporting events, and media companies who want to take advertising from sports betting companies, in most cases they need to wait for the states to make decisions on how to proceed.
Continue Reading Supreme Court Strikes Down Law against Sports Betting – But Broadcasters Need to Proceed with Caution

In a decision released last week, the FCC imposed a fine of $4000 on a broadcaster licensed to a community in the state of Arkansas for airing an advertisement for the Missouri State Lottery.  In this case, a station licensed to Arkansas ran a remote broadcast from a store in Missouri.  During the course of the remote, the on-air announcer invited listeners to come to the store and made some not-too-subtle remarks implying that, when they did, they could buy Missouri lottery tickets.  As there is a statutory provision prohibiting a station located in one state from running an ad for a lottery in another state if its own state does not have a lottery, the Commission issued this fine.

This ban is based on a statute passed  by Congress, and approved by a Supreme Court decision 15 years ago – finding a compelling state interest in protecting the citizens of states that ban gambling from allowing stations in their states from advertising that prohibited activity.  Of course, in many cases, a station licensed to one state may be heard (and may in fact be physically located) in another state.  Even so, the city of license is what counts – so a station has to observe the laws of that state.  In some cases, that can mean that there are different rules that apply to different stations in the same cluster (and possibly located in the same building, with advertising being sold by the same sales people).


Continue Reading No State Lottery in Your State? – No Gambling Ads Even For a State Lottery In a Nearby State