The times have changed when it comes to showing drinking on TV shows. With the rise of streaming services which have different rules associated with them, and a change to the way that the public views alcohol, drinking can be shown on national TV these days. There was a time when social pressure prevented drinking from being shown on national TV, but that kind of limitation ended in the late 90s.
There was actually never a law about showing drinking on national TV, but the social pressure to avoid showing anything other than beer on TV shows was such that this was not common until more recently. There is less of an attitude that drinking is related to some kind of social or personal failing these days. This means that people can be shown drinking on national TV without anyone getting upset.
Are There Still Situations Where You Cannot Drink on National TV?
While there might not be rules about drinking on TV shows, kids’ TV does not show alcohol consumption, and there are various other programs that do not include drinking. News media and other more serious kinds of TV will not show drinking on their offerings. There is also still some sense that drinking happens on shows that run starting at 8 pm and going into the evening.
This is not actually governed by law, but it is still a bit of a TV convention. As stated earlier, the arrival of streaming services, which are not concerned with scheduling for live TV times, has contributed to the way that alcohol is viewed on TV. It is much more common to see the subject addressed in programming that is not run in the evening these days.
One of the other areas where alcohol is still limited is with regard to ads. You cannot advertise specific alcohol on a show. This means that you need to take the labels off bottles of alcohol, and you should not refer to specific alcohol by name while you are writing dialogue or engaging in discussion on a live show. This is to prevent legal action from being taken against the production due to branding violations or for advertising alcoholic products.
You might have noticed that many shows do not name the products that people are drinking. They will just refer to them generically or state the name of the mixed drink itself and not a brand of alcohol, even in dialogue. This is to prevent issues with branding and legal action from being taken against the show.
Alcohol Can be Shown on National TV When Specific Products Are Not Named
So long as no specific alcohol brand is named and there is no reference to specific products that could be considered advertising, you can show characters or guests drinking on TV. Live TV in the evening has been able to show this kind of activity for years, but the social opinion about drinking has changed a lot since the late 90s. Drinking on TV is legal, and TV shows can show drinking behavior if they wish without fear of legal action being taken against them.
This article was last updated on March 2, 2023 .