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FCC’s Adelstein Promises Crackdown on ‘Covert Commercial Pitches’

May 25, 2005  •  Post A Comment

Federal Communications Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein on Wednesday promised a federal crackdown on “covert commercial pitches” on radio and TV and urged the public to help by documenting undisclosed product placements, video news releases or news segments that look like advertisements on stations in their communities. “We have a right to know that people who present themselves to be independent, unbiased experts, and reporters are not shills hired to promote a corporate or governmental agenda,” said Mr. Adelstein in a speech to the Media Institute in Washington. “Unless we act now, the problem will only grow worse.”

Mr. Adelstein said that he was particularly concerned about allegations that some broadcasters and cable operators are not disclosing product placements, or other paid programming, including appearances by on-air personalities who are paid to promote products on the air.

Disclosure of the sponsorship is required by law, he said. “Some will tell you that if broadcasters and cable companies insist on further commercializing news and other shows alike, that is their business,” he said. “But if they do so without disclosing it to the viewing public, that is payola, and that is the FCC’s business.”

Mr. Adelstein also said the FCC should immediately launch investigations into allegations that some so-called experts interviewed on TV are paid to pitch products without disclosing their sponsorship. “We should immediately open investigations into these possible violations of our rules and prosecute them to the full extent of the law,” Mr. Adelstein said.