The FCC has issued a Forfeiture Order, confirming a $4000 fine levied against a Minneapolis TV station for airing a video news release ("VNR") without sponsorship identification. This case was previously discussed in our March 25th blog entry, when the Commission issued a Notice of Apparent Liability ("NAL") against the station for this violation. The primary lesson to be learned from this decision is that video supplied for free may require sponsorship ID if furnished for the purpose of identifying a product or furthering a sponsor’s message beyond any independent (i.e., newsworthy) reason a station has for airing it.
In arguing against the NAL, the station put forth several arguments, all of which were rejected by the FCC. The station argued that its use of a video supplied by General Motors for a story about the popularity of convertibles in the summer was equivalent to use of a company press release, which the FCC has found acceptable in the past. But the FCC said that use of a press release without sponsorship ID is permitted only if references to products or brand names are "transient or fleeting." Here, by contrast, the FCC found the identification of GM cars to be "disproportionate to the subject matter of the news report."