Civil Liberties Group Says State Agency’s Restrictions are Unconstitutional

Richmond, VA-- The U.S. District Court in Richmond will hear oral arguments tomorrow in an ACLU lawsuit filed against the State Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control for placing unconstitutional restrictions on alcohol-related advertisements in college publications.
The complaint was filed on behalf of the Collegiate Times, an independent, student-run newspaper at Virginia Tech, and the University of Virginia’s Cavalier Daily.
The ACLU’s challenge is similar to a case brought in Pennsylvania in 2004. There the University of Pittsburgh’s student paper, Pitt News, challenged restrictions on alcohol advertising in student newspapers. Pitt News and the ACLU of Pennsylvania prevailed when a federal appeals court held that the restrictions violated the First Amendment right to freedom of the press because they unjustifiably imposed a burden on media associated with universities and colleges but not on other media.
Collegiate Times, which is supported almost entirely through the sale of advertisements, claims that its revenues are unfairly restricted by the ban on alcohol-related ads. They have had to turn down advertising offers while other area newspapers have not.
Alcoholic Beverage Control Board prohibits the advertisement of beer, wine, and mixed drinks in college student publications. Although the purpose of the ABC restrictions appears to be to discourage underage drinking, there is no evidence to suggest that prohibiting alcohol-related ads in college publications has any effect on underage drinking.

WHAT: U.S. District Court Oral Argument in Educational Media Company at Virginia Tech v. Swecker WHO: Rebecca Glenberg, ACLU attorney; Frank Feibelman, ACLU cooperating attorney WHERE: U.S. District Court in Richmond, 1000 East Main Street, Magistrate Judge Hannah Lauck, Richmond, Virginia 23219 WHEN: May 31, 2007, 10:00 a.m.

Contacts: Kent Willis, Executive Director or Rebecca K. Glenberg, Legal Director (804) 644-8022

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