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Responsible advertising

NBC's approach to accepting liquor ads—the first network to break the self-imposed ban—seems cautious to a fault: Ads must air after 9 p.m.; no actors under 30; 85% of the audience over 21; 20% of the ads include themes of social responsibility, plus a separate four-month social-responsibility campaign; no suggestions of raised status, lowered stress or sexiness; no athlete endorsements at all and no celebrities who skew young. And that isn't even half of NBC's 19-point plan. Even Mothers Against Drunk Driving suggests that NBC is on the right road and recommends the guidelines for the whole industry.

We have no problem with other networks' following the lead of NBC in sharing the liquor industry's $350 million ad budget. But, like deciding whether or not to drink, deciding whether to carry the ads should be an individual decision, approached thoughtfully. NBC is acting like a designated driver of the ad category, not a reckless one.

A Happier New Year

Given the events of the year now ending, we could do with an extra cup or two of kindness.

When we got our annual e-mail last week about the free satellite feed of the New Year's Eve festivities from Times Square, we wanted to suggest that, for once, instead of dropping, the fabled ball could rise, phoenix-like, to begin the new year on top.

This industry, the city, the country and the world have been beaten up, but not down, by the events of Sept. 11, not to mention the economic slump exacerbated by those events. The media had one of its finest hours—with a few miscues—during its coverage of the terrorist attacks, for which it gave up, without hand-wringing or hanging back, hundreds of millions of dollars worth of advertising. It then traded its trench coat for a number of different hats, turning entertainer/volunteer/coordinator to help collect millions for relief efforts.

Among the auld acquaintance that must never be forgot are, of course, all the mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers and children who lost their lives Sept. 11 and, since then, soldiers trying to make sure it never happens again and journalists trying to tell us what's happening.

A number were lost from this industry, including TV engineers atop the Twin Towers, but that does not begin to gauge the impact. There was no more than a couple degrees of separation between the victims and all of us to begin with; even that was eradicated by the media's ability to unite everyone with both the horror and the heroism of those days.

Our resolution is to do our part to make this a happier, more prosperous New Year, but we close with words from veteran TV producer and good guy Arthur Greenwald, whose holiday card held the following message: "This year America met hatred and violence with courage and generosity. Now that's something to celebrate!"

Yes, it is.