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FCC May Examine Product-Placement Rules

Chairman Kevin Martin Proposes Inquiry as Networks, Marketers Increase Integration

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WASHINGTON -- Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin is proposing that the agency open an inquiry into whether TV product-placement disclosure rules should be changed in light of the growing integration of branding messages into programming.
Kevin Martin
Kevin Martin Credit: AP

Mr. Martin included a vote on the inquiry in a draft of an agenda for a meeting of commissioners Dec. 18.

Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein has questioned the growth in product placement on TV, and he and consumer groups have called on the FCC to ensure placement is disclosed. Rules require disclosure at the end of broadcasts, a time when local stations regularly cut in to shrink or overlay the credits.

It all goes back to DVRs
At the September opening of a media-ownership hearing in Chicago, Mr. Martin said the growing use of DVRs, with their ability to skip commercials, has antsy networks turning to integration as an alternative, and that merits a look at the rules.

"Networks may be turning to more subtle and sophisticated means of incorporating commercial messages into traditional programming," Mr. Martin said at the time. "As these techniques become increasingly prevalent, there is a growing concern that our sponsorship-identification rules fall short of their ultimate goal: to ensure that the public is able to identify both the commercial nature of the programming as well as its source. I believe it is important for consumers to know when someone is trying to sell them something and that it is appropriate for the commission to examine these issues."
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