TV Network’s Liquor Ads Stir Calls for a Boycott : Protest: Spanish station’s brandy commercials are ‘an outrage and an insult to Latino community,’ critics say.

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After trying unsuccessfully to persuade the nation’s second-largest Spanish-language television network to stop airing commercials for hard liquor, a coalition of Latino groups and public health organizations is urging a nationwide boycott of Telemundo in hopes of pressuring the company.

Telemundo, which has more than 50 affiliated stations across the country, has been under fire since it began broadcasting commercials for Presidente brandy in February, 1994. Critics now say Telemundo is the only broadcaster in the United States that airs the ads, which, they say, encourage younger viewers to use alcohol. The network maintains the liquor commercials are harmless.

“Our boycott will prove more costly and embarrassing to Telemundo than if the company had just stopped the hard liquor advertising when we first asked,” said Carlos Molina, president of the Latino Council on Alcohol and Tobacco. “Liquor ads on Telemundo are an outrage and an insult to the Latino community.”


The protesters plan to launch the boycott Thursday with a demonstration outside Telemundo’s flagship station, Glendale-based KVEA channel 52, which serves the Los Angeles Basin.

Both Telemundo and the largest Spanish-language network, Univision, ceased airing brandy commercials in 1988 after entering a voluntary agreement with public health groups. Protesters said they believe Telemundo, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1993 and underwent a financial restructuring, may have resumed the ads because of its financial condition.

“I think the bottom line is, they’re taking anything they can get,” said Xavier Flores of the Los Angeles County Coalition for Responsible Advertisement. “Presidente brandy comprises one-half of 1% of all their advertising revenues, but I suspect they’re trying to get every dime they can.”

Even though they are not illegal, hard liquor advertisements have been virtually banned from radio and television ever since the Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S. entered into a voluntary agreement with broadcasters in the late 1930s to keep them off the air.

But Dome Importers Inc., the Connecticut-based company that distributes the Mexican-made brandy, is not a member of the spirits council. Moreover, officials with the importing firm said they do not believe the brandy ads pose ethical or health problems.

“The Hispanic market has a history and culture of seeing spirits advertised,” said Alex Stanton, a spokesman for Dome. “It’s quite common in Latin America, and it carries no negative stigma.”


Stanton said the brandy commercials, which depict people enjoying the drink while sitting in a hot tub, are only aired during adult programming after 10 p.m., to minimize the number of viewers under age 21. In addition, he said the company also encourages people to drink in moderation via a series of Spanish-language spots that run during holiday seasons.

Telemundo officials could not be reached Tuesday for comment.

The protesters said they plan to stage a series of demonstrations at Telemundo affiliates across the country until the company changes its policy.

“These kinds of commercials may be common in other nations, but that’s no reason to lower the standards of this nation,” Flores said.