FCC Hammers Pokemon, Buzz Lightyear
By John Eggerton -- Broadcasting & Cable, 9/14/2007 5:21:00 AM
Pokemon teamed up with Buzz Lightyear to do a number on a number of TV stations.
The FCC proposed fining three TV stations a total of $26,000 dollars and admonished two others for violations of the FCC's kids TV rules.
Drawing the biggest fine was drawn by Tribune's WPHL-TV, $15,000, for four airings of the now-infamous GameBoy E-Reader ad, featuring a fleeting glimpse of a Pokemon character, which aired during the Pokemon TV show on the old WB Network. One of the presents left behind by WB was a bunch of fines and amonitions for affiliates who ran the ad. The FCC considers that any appearance of a character from a TV show, fleeting or not, in an ad in that show, turns the character into a host seller, and the whole show into an ad.
WPHL also said it had exceeded the FCC's limits on childrens advertising----10.5 minutes on weekends, 12 minutes on weekdays--by a minute and a half on one additional occasion.
As have other Tribune stations, WPHL argued that a fleeting image was not actionable, citing the fleeting image of the phrase "fuck cops" on a passing train in an episode of Amazing Race, which the FCC did not find indecent. The commission has already said that defense is not germane because "it did not deal with the commingling of program content and commercial matter in children’s programming."
Fox's KUTP(TV) Phoenix was fined $8,000 for twice running an ad that featured a Kellogg's Buzz Ligthyear bobblehead promotion in the Buzz Lightyear TV show back in 2003. As with Pokemon, that bobblehead turned the whole show into an ad for purposes of the FCC's ad limits
KFOX-TV El Paso Texas was fined $3,000 for exceeding the FCC's limits on ads in children's TV by a total of nine-and-a-half minutes. The station had also failed to keep up its public file on children's tV issues, or to publicizeits existence to the public, both as required by FCC rules.
Admonished--an official reprimdand--but not fined were Ion's (formerly Paxson's) WPXN-TV New York and Meredith's WFSB-TV Hartford, Conn., for failing to supply program guide publishers with the age ranges of their kids shows (WPXN) and missing records on compliance with ad limits (WFSB).
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