A consortium of big-name broadcast companies and trade associations, calling their group National Media Providers, has filed extensive commentary on product placement with the FCC. They say rules governing the practice have been on the books for decades and do not need any revision.
Attorneys from Davis Wright Tremaine, led by First Amendment expert Robert Corn Revere, kicked off by reminding the Commission that the concept that “A prosperous broadcasting industry is obviously in a position to render a better program service to the public than an industry that must pinch and scrape to make ends meet” is over 60 years old, and that rules governing what needs to be identified when and how were thoroughly aired out about 45 years ago.
What has changed in the last 45 years, however, is the competitive landscape of the advertising business, not to mention advances in technology which can allow media users to bypass paid commercial messages. That in turn threatens the ability of broadcasters to provide quality programming.
It has resulted in an increased reliance on product placement as the value of traditional spots is threatened. NMP argues that it is simply a tool to maintain the traditional business featuring free content in exchange for exposure to advertising.
But that’s not how some watchdogs see it. “The increasing use of product placement is characterized as a ‘problem’ to be ‘solved,’ rather than as an essential adjustment in the form of commercial support needed to preserve ad-supported media in the face of increasing competition and technological change.”
NMP says identifying paying sponsors who have had a product embedded into a production in the closing credits has been and should continue to be sufficient.
The companies and organizations forming NMP include both television and radio groups. On the roster are American Association of Advertising Agencies, Association of National Advertisers, Inc., Beasley Broadcast Group, Inc., CBS Corporation, Citadel Broadcasting Corporation, Debmar-Mercury, Discovery Communications, Inc., Entercom Communications Corp., Fox Entertainment Group, Greater Media, Inc., Journal Broadcast Corporation, LIN Television Corporation, Motion Picture Association of America, NBC Universal, Inc., Promotion Marketing Association, Viacom Inc. and The Walt Disney Company.
RBR/TVBR observation: NMP is essentially arguing that at the most what we have here is a tempest in a teapot. Maybe some smite their foreheads in anguish at the sight of Paula Abdul drinking a Coca Cola product, but for most of us it is not the end of the world, and we still get to see the show free of charge. The same goes for first-person endorsements over the radio.