After four years, the Federal Communications Commission has taken action against two television stations for airing glowing news segments that were essentially commercials dressed up to appear as news reports, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The agency’s proposed penalty is $4,000 for the Atlantic City, N.J.-based NBC affiliate WMGM-TV and Minneapolis’ KMSP-TV, a Fox-owned station, the story says. It questions whether the penalty is large enough to "to scare off the next station manager intent on fobbing off hucksterism as real reporting."
Because of station cutbacks, more stations appear to be using commercial pitches in the middle of programs, where viewers are less likely to skip over them with their mute buttons or DVRs, the article notes.
Ron Smith, the general manager of WMGM, said he was surprised by the fine, the piece says. The station’s stance was that the offending segment, which was for the cold treatment Zicam, wasn’t paid for by Zicam, so the station did not need to notify viewers that the product’s positive reviews came from the company. Smith said that the station had changed its procedures, however, and doesn’t air video news releases, the article says.