Pols plug probe of placements

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A pair of powerful lawmakers urged the FCC on Wednesday to open a broad investigation into television producers' increasing use of product placement and integration into their programs.

Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., and Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., told the commission they were concerned that viewers were being duped by the practice.

"In our view, the blurring of the line between advertising and content represented by product placement and product integration is unfair and deceptive if it occurs without adequate disclosures to the viewing public," they wrote in a letter.

Both lawmakers have considerable sway in Congress in that they are among the House's most respected members and chair influential panels. Waxman chairs the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform; Markey chairs the House Commerce Committee's telecommunications subcommittee.

Their support adds weight behind the writers and actors guilds' push to force disclosure and to ensure that they are not shut out of any advertising revenue.

"Product integration without the constructive consultation of creative artists has been of growing concern to writers from its earliest days in reality TV, where it was developed and fostered," WGA West president Patric Verrone said. "Comprehensive disclosure rules are now necessary to protect the talent community, vital for viewers and consumers and essential to the creative integrity of American media."

SAG president Alan Rosenberg said the guilds were pleased by the support.

"Actors can lose endorsement contracts with advertisers because they are linked with products as a result of product integration on TV series and motion pictures," he said. "The public has a right to know that the networks and studios are profiting from these arrangements with advertisers."

While FCC chairman Kevin Martin already has said that he wants the panel to study the issue.
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