Tribune, Gannett get hit


If you saw the word-fragment "mon" on a partially-obscured card flashed on your screen for one second during a commercial, would you know what it meant? Hint: You're not in Jamaica. Hint #2: It happened during broadcast of the Pokemon cartoon show on Tribune's KTLA-TV in Los Angeles. By now you're probably wondering how much it would cost you if it was your station on which this occurred. The answer is 8K.

Since children have difficulty distinguishing between entertainment and commercial content, an ad that mimics or mirrors the entertainment legally turns the entire program into an "ad," easily taking the program past the legal limit of 10.5 minutes of advertising per hour on weekends and 12 minutes on weekdays.

By now, you may have guessed that "mon" was a very partial view of a Pokemon card – no artwork was visible – but to the FCC, a Pokemon is a Pokemon is a mon. The FCC refused to grant KTLA any slack for the minimal nature of the infraction (it was part of a network feed from the old WB Network, which informed Tribune about the potential for trouble after the fact).

Adding in 13 other related infractions and the Tribune hit was jacked all the way up to 20K. Gannett's WKYC-TV Cleveland joined in the fun with the much more mundane failure to publicize the existence and location of its Children's Television Programming Reports. That cost it 10K.