The FCC’s Notice of Inquiry and Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Sponsorship Identification issues (which we summarized in our firm’s advisory and about which we wrote here), which deals with a host of issues including embedded advertising and product placement, was published in the Federal Register late last week, starting the clock on the filing of comments. Comments on this wide-ranging proceeding are due on September 22, and replies on October 22. With the broad range of issues that are discussed in this proceeding, from proposed rules on the size and length of textual sponsorship identifications in television advertising to sponsorship identification requirements for live-read radio commercials, there is something on which almost every broadcaster will want to comment.
A recent New York Times article helped bring the proceeding to the attention of the general public. The article writes about television stations which are paid to have morning show hosts place coffee cups with identifiable logos (in this case cups of McDonalds coffee) on the desk of the news anchors of a morning news program. Under some of the proposals identified in the Notice of Inquiry in this proceeding, some sort of identification (perhaps a crawl or superimposed message) of the sponsor for the placement of those cups would be required concurrently with the visual images of the cups on the screen. The same would be true of the appearance of a product in any scripted comedy or drama, and perhaps even when feature films are run on TV in which the filmmaker was paid to include specific products in the movie. Adoption of any of these suggestions could certainly change to face of broadcast television, particularly as it adapts its advertising practices to deal with Digital Video Recorders and other technological advances. For broadcasters to retain their flexibility in such matters, they should file comments on or before the September 22 filing deadline.