JEFFERSON CITY — Regulations limiting alcohol advertising in Missouri are being challenged by a radio association that is at the forefront of what the state considers prohibited advertising.
In Missouri, laws are in place that make it illegal for alcohol producers and retailers to mention any discounts, prices or rebates for alcohol through media advertising. This means that any time an alcohol retailer has a special promotion, it cannot air it through media placement but is allowed to promote it on its premises.
In 2013, the Missouri Broadcasters Association, which is a winery and alcohol retailer in addition to being a broadcasting group, challenged the Missouri alcohol advertising laws. The case was dismissed by U.S. District Judge Fernando Gaitan. Upon appeal, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously reinstated the lawsuit by the association, breathing new life into the association’s legal efforts that challenge a Missouri statute as well as two state regulations on the issue.
According to the Missouri Broadcasters Association, the laws regulating how alcohol can be advertised has cost it revenue and kept Missouri residents from being informed about alcohol deals and discounts “in advance” through media such as radio, television and newspapers.
“As to the economic effect of the current restrictive laws, we believe they are threefold – retailers can’t get the word out effectively on their discounts, so they lose business; media like our members don’t get advertising that they normally would, so they lose advertising revenue; and consumers can’t find out about discounts through media advertising, so they miss out on most discounts and pay more than they would otherwise have to,” Mark Gordon, CEO and president of the Missouri Broadcasters Association told the St. Louis Record. “Laws like these, which keep consumers in ignorance of truthful facts about product pricing, are harmful to the whole commercial process.”
The Missouri Broadcasters Association, along with several other entities, is challenging the laws under the First Amendment, saying that it prevents their “guarantee of commercial free speech.” In a statement, the association pointed to the laws creating an unfair advantage in Missouri to business because the bordering states do not have similar laws and are able to freely promote these alcohol discounts.
The association believes that by removing this legislation, consumers will have access to better information and be able to make more informed alcohol buying decisions. Through its radio and television stations, it believes that consumers are provided valuable information on good and services, which the Missouri alcohol adverting laws prohibit. It also said that in an era of social media, that laws are ill-fitting and restrictive.
Things could be promising for the Missouri Broadcasters Association, as the 8th Circuit found inconsistencies in the laws, which the association believes, “demonstrates their unconstitutionality.” Through the appeal, the case will be sent back to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri.
In the statement, the Missouri Broadcasters Association said that it intends, along with its co-plaintiffs, to “vigorously pursue their claims in that court.”