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At Annual Convention : Broadcasters Take On The Takeover

April 16, 1985|DENNIS McDOUGAL | Times Staff Writer

LAS VEGAS — At first flush, neither T. Boone Pickens nor Jack Daniels was a welcome guest at the 63rd annual convention of the National Assn. of Broadcasters, meeting here through Wednesday.

Corporate takeover artists and demon alcohol were twin targets in association President Edward O. (Eddie) Fritts Jr.'s state of the industry address to an estimated 35,000 TV and radio executives. Many of those men and women work for firms that have been targets of hostile Wall Street takeovers in recent months.

"When hostile takeovers are aimed at liquidating a company to maximize assets," Fritts said with understated fury, "all of us, whether publicly held or not, should pause to reflect."

A running joke at the television programming workshops had the three major networks--renamed CBS, NBC and Capital Cities Communications (which recently offered to buy out ABC)--banning light beer commercials from all programming except reruns of "The Lost Weekend" and "The Days of Wine and Roses."

Ironically, the recipient of the association's annual Distinguished Service Award was himself the target of a takeover bid last week. Wilson C. Wearn, board chairman of South Carolina-based Multimedia Inc., rejected an attempt by Los Angeles-based Lorimar Productions to gobble up his radio-TV-newspaper group for a reported $1.02 billion.

That figure alone dwarfs the revenues that the entire broadcasting industry stands to lose in the on-going efforts by public interest groups to ban wine and beer advertising on radio and TV.

In a Monday morning speech, Mothers Against Drunk Driving founder Candy Lightner delivered a one-sided ultimatum to 1,000 conventioneers.

Lightner's message was: Tone down glamorous beer and wine advertising through self-censorship by next January. Asked what she would do if broadcasters refused, Lightner said, jokingly, "We'll picket your house."

MADD has applauded broadcasters' increased awareness of the drunk-driving problem but questions the sincerity of broadcasters who air anti-drunk driving announcements that viewers can see "if they stay awake until 4 a.m.," Lightner said. She also condemned the success-and-sex formula that underlies much of the alcoholic beverage advertising on TV and radio.

Beer and wine advertising accounted for 11% of the total commercial revenue taken in by broadcasters last year: about $700 million.

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