A regional news channel called CN8, produced by Cable giant Comcast, aired a consumer information segment that prominently featured a video news release about Nelson’s Rescue Sleep sent to it by D.S. Simon Productions. Lack of sourcing has cost the MSO 4K. The issue was brought before the Commission by watchdogs Center for Media and Democracy and Free Press, who objected to a 9/21/06 report by CN8’s Art Fennell. Fennell’s story was on non-prescription sleep aids, and included the Nelson’s footage, and did not mention any products competing with Nelson’s.
Comcast objected on a number of counts. It said in that the VNR sourcing requirements applied only to broadcasters, which the FCC said was nonsense — the FCC said "origination programming" by a CATV operator is under the same obligation to identify a VNR source. It further said that it received no compensation for Nelson’s. However, the FCC said there is an exception to the compensation proviso, "when there is too much focus on a product or brand name in the programming." Such was the case in the CN8 report, in the opinion of the FCC, an opinion which it backed up with the 4K fine.
TVBR/RBR observation: The cliché is that 4K probably wouldn’t cover this year’s capex on paper clips for a giant like Comcast. However, this incident serves as an inexpensive warning that the FCC is on the job and will interpret the rules in favor of levying a fine when doubt exists as in this case. It also serves as a reminder that watchdogs have their VCRs running and are eager to bring such incidents to the FCC’s attention. Forewarned is forearmed.