September 25, 2013

Richmond, Va. – The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled today that two college newspapers must be permitted to carry alcohol advertising, in spite of an Alcohol Beverage Control Board (ABC) regulation prohibiting most alcohol ads in college student publications.
“Like other newspapers, most college newspapers rely heavily on advertising to meet their operating expenses,” said ACLU of Virginia Legal Director Rebecca Glenberg, who represented the newspapers. “Eliminating a whole category of advertising puts these newspapers at a competitive disadvantage.”
“College newspapers serve an important role in gathering and reporting news that is especially relevant to college students, professors, and staff,” added Glenberg.  “Limiting their access to advertising has the effect of diminishing their ability to report on these topics.”
The ABC regulation at issue prohibited all advertising of alcoholic beverages in college student publications, “unless in reference to a dining establishment.”  The court of appeals held that the regulation violated the constitutional rights of The Cavalier Daily, a student newspaper at the University of Virginia, and the Collegiate Times, a student newspaper at Virginia Tech.  The majority of readers of both newspapers are aged twenty-one or older.
As applied to The Cavalier Daily and the Collegiate Times, the regulation is unconstitutional because “it prohibits large numbers of adults who are 21 years of age or older from receiving truthful information about a product that they are legally allowed to consume,” the court wrote.
The court noted that the Supreme Court has frowned on paternalistic restrictions on speech that seek to withhold information that the government deems to be harmful.  The ABC regulation “attempts to keep would-be drinkers in the dark based on what the ABC perceives to be their own good,” the court wrote.
In addition to Glenberg, The Cavalier Daily and the Collegiate Times were represented by attorney Frank Feibelman, of Richmond.
The case is Educational Media Co. at Virginia Tech v. InsleyClick here to read the Fourth Circuit’s opinion.