FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein (D) and Watchdogs Center for Media and Democracy and Free Press are having their wishes fulfilled by the FCC. They were hoping that the 4K fine leveled at Comcast’s CN8 channel for airing an unsourced video news release (VNR) was the beginning, not the end, of the FCC’s action along this line. They did not have long to wait. The Enforcment Bureau has cited four more instances, and at 4K a pop has levied an additional 16K shot at Comcast’s wallet. All four were the result of complaints filed by the aforementioned watchdogs.
The VNRs in question were from one for General Mills concerning "Wheaties Fit to Win Challenge," one about Allstate life insurance, another for Trend Micro Software which concerned laptop security and its own security software, and another General Mills item on the 75th anniversary of Bisquick.
All four incidents came during items on a program called "Art Fennell Reports." The FCC said, "We do not believe that this type of promotional material, furnished by a product manufacturer, can or should be considered within the scope of the proviso, which is directed to material that contains only fleeting or transient references to products or brand names. We conclude this material falls within the exception specifically set forth in the proviso to the rule and that a sponsorship announcement was required." It says the fact that Comcast received no direct compensation was irrelevant.
RBR/TVBR observation: Obviously, it is now less likely that the first Comcast finding was an isolated incident, and we are moving toward the increasing likelihood that this is a new trend in enforcement. Can a broadcast outlet be far behind on the list of released FCC VNR actions?