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Agency advertising bill ‘ill-conceived’

2012 LEGISLATIVE SESSION

A bill that cleared the committee in the Senate and awaits action on the floor has caught the attention of advertising and media outlets.

Senate Bill 2736 would prohibit state agencies from spending funds appropriated from the state’s general fund on radio and television advertisements that promote programs and initiatives, unless there is a bidding process involved.

“It’s got a lot of us concerned,” said Peter Marks, president of Jackson advertising agency Maris West and Baker, which has contracted with the State Department of Health to promote some of its anti-smoking campaigns. “It affects the education of these programs. A lot of these programs educate, for example, people about teen pregnancy. There’s a way to talk about it and to educate young men and young women about how to keep from getting pregnant. How do you get that work out? Do you do it totally with social media? You need a media mix for it to be effective. You need radio, you need TV, and then you need the Internet, social media. It just bothers me that government will put that much control on how agencies spend their money. Why are putting more restrictions in place?”

Sen. Merle Flowers, R-Southaven, told a Jackson television station the measure was aimed at cutting costs.

“If the state is going to be spending money, we need to know how they’re spending it,” Flowers said. “The public has a right to require their government to get the best deal possible.”

Dan Modisett, general manager of Jackson NBC affiliate WLBT, said the spirit of the bill is unfair, and not carefully planned.

“It’s just so ill-conceived,” he said. “It doesn’t speak to other advertising, just radio and television. If you’re going to do this, apply it to everybody.They obviously don’t understand the complexities of advertising, or what constitutes advertising. Public safety initiatives – take the use of seatbelts and all the campaigns that have centered on that – would qualify as advertising. It’s poorly thought out. You have to really stretch to think there’s a way this could benefit anybody.”

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