Nets beat drug rap


While cautioning the networks to be more careful, the FCC has declined to sanction them for failing to disclose federally encouraged antidrug messages in scripts.

Sanctions were requested by the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), which contended that agreements between the White House's Office of National Drug Control Policy and the Big Four networks and The WB constituted unpublicized compensation.

Cries of government censorship arose when the agreements were disclosed last January. Two years earlier-in a congressionally required practice that the FCC says is still ongoing-the networks started donating matching PSA time for every ad bought by the federal drug office. But the networks were also granted PSA credit for shows that carried antidrug messages. That freed them to sell time that otherwise would have gone for PSAs.

"While the networks actually received consideration for the broadcast" of antidrug messages-thus requiring sponsorship identification-it's hard to come down hard in this case because, the FCC said, it cannot be determined if the networks were paid or promised compensation at the time a show with an antidrug message first aired.

But when it comes to reruns, the FCC warned, "sponsorship identification is required."