FCC Takes on Knight Rider Et Al.

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago

This website has railed against automobile manufacturers' insidious influence on editorial content: casual pro-GM remarks made by Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, publications and websites that don't fully reveal sponsored junkets, buff book car reviews that pull their punches to appease advertisers and TV programs built around automotive product placement. [In the latter case, the new Knight Rider is the most egregious example– a program so laced with Ford product placement it was hard to tell where the show started and the commercials began.] Advertising Age reports that the Federal Communications Commission's chairman is sending a torpedo towards the entire product placement business. "There is growing concern that our sponsorship identification rules may fall short of their ultimate goal: to ensure that the public is able to identify both the commercial nature of programming as well as its source," FCC Chairman Kevin J. Martin said. Kev's contemplating new requirements for longer and bigger disclosure of product placement– up to four seconds. Does the ad industry like this? Uh, no. ""I really don't think product placement is sinister or fooling anybody. It's just part of life," insists Dan Jaffe, an exec VP at the Association of National Advertisers. "A crawl or bubble would be totally disruptive of what is going on in the program itself." So much for engaging content, then.

Robert Farago
Robert Farago

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  • Landcrusher Landcrusher on Jul 01, 2008

    Actually, I think it was magnavox that at one time had an option to simply turn the sound off when it detected the volume increase. I believe your provider though. I have noticed the amount of volume increase changes from channel to channel on my cable.

  • Briandfromo.p. Briandfromo.p. on Jul 01, 2008

    Would you rather see some mild product placement within the program or the status quo of multiple interruptions during your favorite tv show? Based on my unscientific observation, most shows on TV last about 7-8 minutes before the first commercial interruption, then slowly diminish the span of programming time between commercial breaks. Local newscasts are even worse. If the FCC were to put a stop to this practice, does this mean NASCAR would cease to exist? The product placement is sickening; I want to throw up every time I see a driver take a swig of his Coke/Pepsi/NOS/Vitaminwater/MinuteMaid, etc. just before answering questions.

  • Dhanson865 Dhanson865 on Jul 01, 2008

    If you want to talk about bad product placement ads just watch Biggest Loser. Other than the high protein oatmeal (whey powder) most of the products they hawk aren't a natural fit. Every season it gets worse. The contestants on the show are visibly upset/mocking the advertising in some cases. Of course they don't complain when the prize is a Ford Explorer hybrid (not that I would either, free is free, even after taxes on prizes I could sell an hybrid SUV for a profit and buy a reasonable mid sized car). Oh wait, was it an Escape hybrid or do they actually make an Explorer hybrid. If I was wrong I guess you can tell I don't pay much attention to SUVs.

  • Bozoer Rebbe Bozoer Rebbe on Jul 02, 2008
    You mis-characterize my argument, sir. All I ask is fair disclosure on public airwaves. In the case of the radio talk show hosts, they've already disclosed, on air, the fact that GM has given them cars to drive. What other disclosure could be necessary? Frankly it makes more sense for GM to comp a talk show host than to let Wolfgang Puck drive an Escalade for free. Now that's something that bites my ass, the number of celebrities who get all sorts of stuff for free that they can afford better than most. At least the IRS is now keeping an eye at the backstage goody bags at awards shows. Last year presenters got about $40K worth of stuff at the Oscars. This year, to be PC, the swag included carbon credits. An argument can be made, btw, that mandating "fair disclosure" is the functional equivalent to exercising editorial control. Telling someone they must disclose potential conflicts of interest is a form of mandating content. Also, don't confuse "public" with "government". The airwaves belong to the public in the US, not the government. That's why it's against the FCC Act of 1933 to regulate radio reception (and why laws prohibiting radar detectors or police scanners would get thrown out if challenged in court). The government administers the airwaves on behalf of the public, issuing licenses, making sure that technical standards are met, but as long as minimal standards for operating in the public interest are met, broadcasters' content should be off limits to government control. Look at the Fairness Doctrine. Is there any question that the Democrats want to bring it back because of fairness? Give me a break. They want to suppress their political opposition. So-called progressives have never been able to make a commercial success of talk radio, so they want to suppress conservative and libertarian voices on the air.