- The Washington Times - Friday, October 20, 2006

Health advocacy organizations are urging a group of Hollywood actors to sever ties with beer giant Anheuser-Busch’s new online entertainment network, Bud.TV, which the groups fear will promote alcohol to minors.

The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, along with four other groups, sent a letter to Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Kevin Spacey and Vince Vaughn — who all have discussed developing programming for the site — to reconsider their participation out of concern that the site will promote alcohol to underage consumers.

Anheuser-Busch, the nation’s largest beer company, will debut the Internet entertainment network Bud.TV in February. Tony Ponturo, the St. Louis company’s vice president for sports marketing, said the site will have as many as seven channels that will feature comedy, sports and news programs, as well short films. The site will not show 30-second commercials for Anheuser-Busch products such as Budweiser and Bud Light but will integrate them into thesite’s content.

Minors drink as much as 20 percent of all the alcohol consumed in America, according to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University. And, each day, 7,000 children in the U.S. under 16 take their first drink, according to the Leadership to Keep Children Alcohol Free.

Studies show that young children use the Internet more frequently than adults. A July 2005 report by the Pew Internet & American Life Project revealed that 87 percent of teens in the U.S. use the Internet compared with 66 percent of adults. And a Georgetown University study showed that about 13 percent of visits to brand-name alcohol sites were by minors.

Bud.TV received criticism in September for not implementing a more strenuous age-check process for the Web site. At the time, Mr. Ponturo said the company would have to trust the “honor system” registration process.

Visitors to Bud.TV must enter their birth date before entering. Those who say they are 21, will be allowed to view the site’s contents.

“We would like to see Anheuser-Busch use a more credible process that includes using a public database, like Motor Vehicles’ vehicle records, to check ages,” said Jeff Cronin, spokesman for the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

The actors are not slated to appear on the Bud.TV Web site, rather production companies associated with the actors will provide site content. The companies include LivePlanet, which produces Mr. Damon and Mr. Affleck’s filmmaking contest “Project Greenlight,” and Wild West Picture Show Productions, which is helping to start a comedy show featuring Mr. Vaughn.

The health advocacy groups said the actors have not responded to the letters, which were sent Wednesday.

The American Osteopathic Association, National Association of Teen Institutes, Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America and the National Association for Children of Alcoholics also signed onto the letters.

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