Television is the main focus, but radio was not left out of the rulemaking part of the FCC’s Notice of Inquiry and Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on product placement by advertisers. No actual rule is spelled out yet, but the FCC wants comments on whether a sponsorship announcement is required when a radio host makes a personal, on-air endorsement of a product or service that they received for little or no cost.
The radio section of the NPRM is quite short. Here it is in its entirety:
“We also invite comment on issues raised by radio hosts’ personal, on-air endorsements of products or services that they may have been provided at little or no cost to them. In such circumstances, should we presume that an ‘exchange’ of consideration for on-air mentions of the product or service has occurred, thus triggering the obligation to provide a sponsorship announcement? Should we do so in all such circumstances or should we limit this presumption to situations where other factors enhance the likelihood that an exchange of consideration for air time has taken place. In addition, we invite comment on the scope of the ‘obviousness’ exception to the sponsorship announcement requirement. Does that exception apply to endorsements or favorable commentary by a radio host that are integrated into broadcast programming, i.e., made to sound like they are part of a radio host’s on-air banter rather than an advertisement?”
Comments on MB Docket No. 08-90 are due 60 days after publication in the Federal Register, which should come sometime this week or next.
RBR/TVBR observation: With advertisers searching for ways to escape DVR commercial avoidance by viewers, it is not a bad idea for the FCC to provide some clear guidance on sponsorship identification for imbedded product placement in programming. Our main concern is that the Commission not create a situation where there would be cause for action where the exposure of a product was part of the plot (or just completely random) and no consideration was received. For example, we are pretty sure that Hostess did not arrange for Jon Stewart to serve Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf a Twinkie when he appeared on Comedy Central’s “Daily Show.” The way the Commission appears to be heading for radio, is seems a station could be in trouble if a local doughnut shop dropped off a dozen for the morning show and someone happened to mention on the air that “those were pretty good doughnuts from Tom’s Doughnuts.” That would be overkill.