Martin plugs placement probe

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The FCC is investigating the practice of product integration in an attempt to decide whether it should regulate the growing practice under its sponsorship identification regulations, the commission's chairman said Thursday.

During his statement opening the panel's fifth hearing on media-ownership regulations, FCC chairman Kevin Martin said the public has the right to know when it is the target of a sales pitch.

"I believe it is important for consumers to know when someone is trying to sell them something and that it is appropriate for the commission to examine these issues," he said in Chicago.

Martin said he was circulating a Notice of Proposed Rule Making among his colleagues asking them if the commission should take action on "imbedded advertising techniques."

"Specifically, the notice seeks comment on whether it is necessary to amend the commission's sponsorship identification rules to ensure adequate disclosure to the public," he said.

Martin aides said the chairman was interested more in product integration than product placement as he fears the threat posed by increasingly sophisticated advertising pitches. The aides said Martin became concerned about the issue at the commission's ownership hearing in Los Angeles, where many in the creative community expressed concern.

WGA West president Patric Verrone was prepared to make his pitch for a product integration rule in Chicago and said that he was pleased with the chairman's action.

"We thank the chairman and the commission for bringing attention to this issue," Verrone told The Reporter. "We hope it has an impact on the way the TV industry is turning creators into advertisers."

Martin's move and Verrone's testimony were an indication that the creative guilds aren't going to let the issue disappear. The guilds have hopes that they can use the media-consolidation issue to at least increase the visibility of the product integration issue.
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