Gov’t Bans Alcohol Ads to Reduce Traffic Deaths

Television and radio stations will be barred from broadcasting advertisements for alcohol during the primetime 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. slot beginning next month, as part of the government’s effort to reduce the number of fatalities resulting from drunk driving, officials at the Ministry of Information said Monday.

The two-hour ban will come into force on October 1, while a blanket prohibition of beer and liquor advertisements will be imposed at the start of next year, said Mao Ayuth, secretary of state at the Ministry of Information.

“We will ban the broadcast of alcohol advertisements from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., because a lot of people [tune in] during this time,” Mr. Ayuth said, adding that the outright ban would be strictly enforced beginning January 1.

“All the radio and television stations must respect this order from the Ministry of Information, to reduce traffic accidents,” he said.

According to the National Road Safety Committee, 1,956 people died in traffic accidents last year. Thirteen percent of the fatalities were the result of drunk driving.

Mr. Ayuth said Information Minister Khieu Kanharith met with television and radio station executives at the ministry Monday to warn them that they had until the end of the month to comply with the directive.

“We gave a month to the owners of the radio and television stations because they have contracts [with advertisers],” Mr. Ayuth said, adding that alcoholic-beverage companies promoting their products on television would still be permitted to pay for their logo to be displayed on screen.

“We will allow…television stations to continue broadcasting logos and a ticker with words on the bottom of the television, but we will not allow the broadcast of video,” he said.

Representatives of television stations said the new ban would mean a significant loss of revenue.

“I believe the ban will affect our business, because beer is a main sponsor of our boxing program,” said Chheang Buntha, chief of TV3’s information section.

“We can’t oppose the ban because it is the government’s order, but we will find other advertisements to replace the alcohol ones to collect revenue to keep our business alive,” he said.

Huot Kheang Veng, chief of information at Bayon TV, was less optimistic.

“We opened television stations to make money, and alcohol is a main sponsor for our station. How can we keep our business alive without broadcasting alcohol advertisements?” he said.

Two of the country’s largest beer companies, Khmer Brewery and Angkor Beer, could not be reached.

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