Media coverage of the “problems” associated with alcohol is widespread in countries of the global North and now, increasingly, in those of the global South. However, despite this mounting ubiquity, there have been very few analyses either of newspaper coverage of alcohol or of media coverage of alcohol policy, especially outside Europe and North America. This article argues that given international concern with the long-term health, economic, social, and developmental consequences of risky drinking in the global South, an exploration of newspaper coverage of nascent alcohol policy in such a context is both timely and valuable. Indeed, such analyses bring to the fore the deeply contextual and contingent nature of alcohol's problematization in politics, policy, and public life. To examine these assertions, we explore the “attention allocation” processes of two South African alcohol control policies — the Western Cape Liquor Bill and the city of Cape Town's liquor bylaws — in two regional English-language newspapers between 2007 and 2011. In so doing, the article highlights the particularities of the political valence of alcohol in the South African context. Furthermore, it also draws out the tensions between alcohol as a source of livelihoods in a context of endemic unemployment and chronic poverty and alcohol as a causal factor in poverty, crime, violence, and social disintegration. In contrast to media coverage of alcohol policy in Europe and North America, this analysis of the South African press suggests that liquor consumption is far less likely to be framed as an express health risk, forcing us to question how preventative policy efforts should best proceed.

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