Battle looms over shock move to ban liquor ads in SA
Monday, 16 Apr 2012
A SHOCK draft bill from the Department of Health that totally prohibits the advertising and promotion of alcoholic products is being reworked behind closed doors by an interdepartmental government task team.
The team includes officials from the departments of health, social development, and trade and industry, who will make proposals to a committee composed of their Cabinet ministers.
The Control of Marketing of Alcoholic Beverages Bill, which was prematurely leaked into the public domain, has caused alarm in industry circles due to its heavy-handed approach.
The draft bill seeks to:
* totally prohibit the advertising of alcoholic products;
* permit only notices, which must be limited to "describing the price, brand name, type, strength, origin and composition of the product", to be displayed inside licensed and registered premises. Notices must be accompanied by a health warning and must not be visible from the outside;
* prohibit the display of names and logos of alcoholic beverages on delivery vehicles;
* prohibit the linking of sports sponsorship to alcoholic brand names; and
* prohibit the promotion of alcoholic beverages through donations and discounts at events.
But the draft bill -- which echoes the passionate opinions of Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi -- is not likely to enter the Cabinet process and Parliament thereafter in its current form.
Dr Motsoaledi, who wants alcohol abuse and attendant public health problems reduced, has sworn to fight the alcohol industry "with his bare knuckles".
However, it seems that he will have to take the fight to his Cabinet colleagues first.
Trade and Industry Deputy Minister Elizabeth Thabethe assured representatives of alcohol industry stakeholders at a summit last month that the state had no definite plans to ban all advertising of alcoholic products and that all stakeholders would be consulted first.
The chief director of the national liquor authority in the Department of Trade and Industry, Thezi Mabuza, who is also on the interdepartmental task team, said: "It is unlikely that a bill will go to Parliament without the Cabinet having looked at its economic impact.
"There will also be a process of engagement with all the stakeholders once the ministers have looked at the draft and decided on a direction," she said.
Ms Mabuza said the interdepartmental task team was still discussing the outline of the bill.
"I wouldn’t say we have decided on any particular direction. The proposal could be for an entire ban or a partial ban. The interministerial committee will look at it and decide on the permutations.
"It is premature now to say what the direction will be."
Dr Motsoaledi’s spokesman, Fidel Hadebe, said on Friday he would not comment on the contents of the draft bill and to what extent it constituted the minister’s final opinion.
Mr Hadebe has confirmed on several occasions since December last year that a draft bill was ready to be processed.
The alcoholic beverage industry, media industry and sports bodies have expressed dismay at the effect a total ban on advertising would have.
A recent study by marketing analyst Chris Moerdyk found the media industry stood to lose R2bn in revenue if alcohol advertising were to be banned -- which amounted to about 2500 job losses.
The SABC, in a report to Parliament’s portfolio committee on communications, recently said it would lose R400m a year in revenue if there were a ban.
Mr Moerdyk estimated the value of sports sponsorships by the liquor industry at about R600m.
South African Breweries (SAB) sponsored the national soccer team, Bafana Bafana; a regional soccer development league; the Proteas Test and one-day international cricket teams; the Tri-Nations rugby tournament; the Springboks; and the Dusi and Fish River canoe marathons, SAB spokesman Benedict Maaga said on Friday.
Due to contractual obligations, SAB could not disclose the value of its sponsorships, he said. If the company was not allowed to display its brand at sports events, it "would not be in a position to continue sponsoring sports or other events in SA", he said.
South African Rugby Union (Saru) spokesman Andy Colquhoun said sponsorships were worth R247m to the union last year. SAB sponsored the Castle Rugby Championship (Castle Tri-Nations) and the Springboks’ incoming and outgoing tours.
Klipdrift was also an official supplier of Saru, he said.
"Saru has had a long and happy relationship with SAB and the fit between rugby and beer is a long and traditional one," Mr Colquhoun said on Friday. "They are old and supportive friends and the potential ending of that relationship would not be a happy day. It would also close a lucrative door that has usually been open to rugby in times of need."
A sponsorship and marketing expert at the Gordon Institute of Business Science, senior lecturer Michael Goldman, said on Friday that given the significance of sports sponsorship as well as the effect on the media industry of a total ban on alcohol advertising, he expected that there would be a reconsideration of the bill in its present form.
While the effect on sport and the media industry would be profound, the effect on the brands themselves "would not necessarily be negative", he said.
"When markets go dark, weaker brands suffer more. Dark marketing also raises the barriers to entry for new products: for an incumbent, it is beautiful," Mr Goldman said.