Democrat Lights Product Placement Fuse Beneath FCC

27 May 2005

The Republican-controlled Federal Communications Commission has been slapped in the face by a glove wielded by one of its own commissioners.

The challenge follows the FCC's decision in February that there there was insufficient evidence that product placement in TV programs misleads consumers.

Jonathan Adelstein, one of the two Democrat-appointed FCC commissioners, strongly disagrees with that view, citing "rampant" product placement that insinuates products onscreen and into the plots of TV dramas and sitcoms.

Addressing a conference called by The Media Institute, he told delegates: "The use of covert commercial pitches is penetrating deeper and deeper into media. Failure to disclose who is behind sponsored programming violates the law."

He also demanded "clear and prominent" disclosures. "There is nothing inherently wrong with product placement, so long as it is disclosed as required by law," he said.

Whether Adelstein's views will receive the support of recently appointed FCC chairman, Kevin Martin, is uncertain. Martin is noted for his independent stance on certain issues and has, in his pre-chair days as a commissioner, voted against such White House-favored issues as liberalizing the media ownership rules.

Adelstein also trained his crosswires on consumer-product reviewers who are covertly paid to mention products. Likewise, radio DJs who pocket payola for mentioning items on-air.

Data sourced from AdWeek (USA); additional content by WARC staff