Fox Minneapolis O&O fined by FCC for VNR use


KMSP-TV, a Fox owned-and-operated television station in the Minneapolis-St. Paul DMA, has been found liable for an FCC fine for airing a video news release from General Motors that was found to be close enough to a commercial message to require sponsor identification. Complaints about the report featuring VNR footage, aired 6/19/06, came from watchdogs Free Press and the Center for Media Democracy.

The fine amounts to $4K.

The station argued that it did not receive any kind of compensation for the report; it came not from GM but from a news service that feeds news to Fox-affiliated stations called Fox New Edge; that using the VNR was akin to a newspaper using a press release; and finally, that hitting it for the report was an encroachment on its First Amendment rights.

The FCC disagreed. For starters, it didn’t matter where the VNR came from or whether the station received a direct payment for running it – it can be assumed that there are other ways that a station may profit from such an act.

Also, citing congressional guidelines adopted by the FCC, the Commission wrote, “The FCC noted that “no announcement is required for a promotional film in which a company’s products or services are clearly identifiable and ‘shown fleetingly … in a manner reasonably related’ to the subject matter of the film, but that announcement is required if the company’s products or services are clearly identifiable and ‘shown to an extent disproportionate to the subject matter of the film.’ We concluded that the identification of General Motors products in Station KMSP-TV’s report exceeded an identification that was reasonably related to the subject matter of the programming at issue, which, as stated above, was the consumer demand for convertible automobiles during the summer.”

Other problems were the lack of examples from other manufacturers and the report’s portrayal of GM’s prospects for success with the vehicles.

FCC said First Amendment complaints were addressed earlier in the proceeding and in the latest round it brought forward no new evidence that the FCC erred in enforcing the sponsorship ID rules.