Aug. 4 1998
Washington, DC - The CAMPAIGN FOR TOBACCO-FREE KIDS today sounded its Tobacco Smoke Alarm on News Corporation, parent company of the Fox ids Network, Fox Family Channel and the Los Angeles Dodgers, for naming Philip Morris tobacco company Chairman Geoffrey Bible to its Board of Directors. ible’s corporate practices in marketing a product to young people that often causes premature death is ontrary to the News Corp./Fox goal of building brand loyalty among kids that will continue through their adult lives. News Corp. is a multi-media conglomerate with ownership of Fox Broadcasting; 20th Century Fox; TV Guide; HarperCollins Publishing; The Los Angeles Dodgers; The New York Post; and Fox TV affiliates in 22 cities, including Washington, New York, and Los Angeles. News Corp. holdings also include Fox Sports Net, The Family Channel, Fox News Channel and Fox Kids Network. "With programs like The X-Files, King of the Hill, Beverly Hills 90210, Party of Five and The Simpsons and movies such as Titanic, Fox's strategy is to build brand loyalty among youngsters and involve them as viewers well into adulthood,” said Bill Novelli, CAMPAIGN president. “Mr. Bible is an expert at brand marketing and attracting youngsters, too. However, Philip Morris’ customer base eventually dwindles as brand-loyal smokers die prematurely from emphysema, lung cancer, heart disease and other smoking-related illnesses.” Murdoch and Bible have had a long-time association, and both have enjoyed great success in corporate America. Until recently, Murdoch sat on the Philip Morris Board and held a substantial stake in the company. He sold 88 percent of his Philip Morris stock before naming Bible to the News Corp. board, according to public records. Novelli said that Philip Morris and News Corp. target the same demographic. “In the short-term, we can see how Mr. Bible’s expertise at marketing to young people will help News Corp. But his tactics are contradictory to News Corp.’s long-term business objectives. News Corp. wants viewers to reach adulthood and patronize 20th Century Fox movies, Dodger baseball games, and Fox’s advertisers. Mr. Bible’s company makes and markets a product that also, unfortunately, impacts young people. Sixty percent of youth who smoke choose Marlboro, Philip Morris’ flagship brand. Many of them will not live full lives or will have reduced buying power because of expenditures on smoking-related health problems.” The CAMPAIGN believes that Bible’s appointment to the News Corp. Board is a conflict of interest and part of an effort by Philip Morris and other tobacco companies to re-legitimize the tobacco industry in the mainstream of corporate America. “News Corp. should not allow its kid-oriented, family-friendly reputation to be tarnished nor the prestige of its Board of directors to be used in such a manner -- particularly by a company that has lied about its efforts to hook youngsters on its addictive products,” Novelli said. The CAMPAIGN is also concerned about how Bible’s influence might affect News Corp’s media holdings’ coverage of the tobacco issue and whether more actors will be seen smoking in 20th Century Fox motion pictures and TV programs, as teen idol and role model actor Leonardo DiCaprio did constantly in the popular film Titanic. The tobacco industry has been actively engaged in a public relations effort to influence how the media reflects the industry. Bible and other tobacco executives have bankrolled a $40 million advertising campaign to kill federal legislation to curb teen-smoking. Philip Morris reached an out-of-court settlement with ABC over its reporting of nicotine levels in cigarettes in 1995. The Philip Morris Companies, Inc. have long been a major offender in its efforts to market tobacco products to American youth. The company's largest seller, and top worldwide tobacco brand is Philip Morris’ Marlboro. The "Marlboro Man," a leather-clad, handsome cowboy, seeks to tap into romantic sentiments about rugged individualists and the American West to appeal to young people. The Tobacco Smoke Alarm is aimed at exposing the tobacco industry's efforts to sell more of its products to children directly through clever marketing -- and indirectly through its efforts to buy political influence. The CAMPAIGN FOR TOBACCO-FREE KIDS can be reached by email at: TobaccoSmokeAlarm@TobaccoFreeKids.org. The Washington, DC-based CAMPAIGN FOR TOBACCO-FREE KIDS is the largest initiative ever undertaken to decrease youth tobacco use in the United States. Its mandate is to focus the nation's attention and action on keeping tobacco marketing from seducing children, and making tobacco less accessible to kids.