New York Ads for erectile dysfunction drugs, beer and not-for-children films abound on pro football and baseball telecasts, upsetting parents and politicians worried about harm to young viewers — though a new wave of complaints doesn’t seem to be swaying the leagues, networks or advertisers.
Earlier this year, a national media monitoring group urged the leagues to “clean up their act” after reporting that half the ad breaks during National Football League telecasts showed at least one ad featuring sex, drugs or alcohol. A congressman concerned about the issue even introduced bill that would limit ED ads to nighttime.
The San Francisco-based monitoring organization, Common Sense Media, this week provided The Associated Press with preliminary results of a similar ad study on Major League Baseball daytime telecasts — it found the rate of ads for alcohol and ED drugs at least as high as for NFL, and said there were even more ads for junk food.
The leagues, however, don’t seem inclined to disrupt the status quo.
“We follow the lead of our broadcasters as it relates to ads, yet we are always sensitive to the opinions of our fans,” said MLB spokesman Matt Bourne.
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy, in an e-mail after the league’s opening week, wrote that “we are comfortable with our policies and those of our network partners.”
The CEO of Common Sense Media, James Steyer, said the profitable ad policies are unlikely to change without political or regulatory pressure.
Steyer, who has taught law at Stanford University, said the leagues, networks and advertisers all share responsibility for the situation, “but none of them are being held accountable.”
After the NFL study was released in January, Steyer said he wrote to commissioner Roger Goodell urging the league to consider changes, while Common Sense Media supporters sent hundreds of e-mails expressing similar concerns. Steyer says the NFL never responded; McCarthy says the NFL is not aware of any letter from Steyer but would be willing to talk with him now.
In May, Rep. Jim Moran introduced a bill that would limit TV ads for erectile dysfunction drugs to between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. — not expecting it to pass any time soon but hoping it would send a warning to the drug makers.