Adelstein Attacks Covert Commercialization


FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein is taking aim at covert commercialization in the media.

At a speech Wednesday in Washington sponsored by the media-funded first Amendment think tank, the Media Institute, Adelstein will call for an FCC crackdown on "payola and the acceptance of undisclosed promotions," as well as for improved disclosure on product placements."

Adelstein sent out an unusual advisory to the press Wednesday saying that the speech, entitled “Fresh is Not as Fresh as Frozen: A Response to the Commercialization of American Media,” would be a "major policy statement."

That statement comes on the heels of a speech to the Free Press media reform conference in St. Louis May 14, when Adelstein called on consumers to monitor broadcasts for plugs and to complain to the FCC if they weren't disclosed, pledging that the commission would take action.

Branding commercialism a "pernicious symptom of consolidation," he asked viewers to start recording examples of product placements, VNRs, or a news segment that looked like an ad, check and see whether there is a disclosure anywhere, and if not, file a formal complaint because, he conceded, "we don't get any complaints about this sort of thing," though he suggested it was because viewers didn't know it was going on.

"We're going to shut down the fraud that is being perpetrated on the American people by the media."

The issue has been boiling over in Washington in the past few months. Various bills have been introduced to crack down on government video news releases that do not disclose their source, and numerous legislators have decried pay-for-play contracts like that of Armstrong Williams to promote the administration's "no child left behind" policy.

The Department of Education has since pledged to keep closer tabs on its PR contracts, while the a number of Democratic legislators and citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington had asked for copies of PR contracts from cabinet agencies to find out how much flacking is going on.