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Open Mike

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FTC Not Picking a Fight

Editor: B&C had it right when you reported that the media industry’s efforts to screen out false claims for diet products have been successful [“FTC Boss Presses Industry to Self-Police,” Feb. 7, page 14].

However, you got it dead wrong when you wrote that the Federal Trade Commission is “considering strikes against snack-food commercials during children’s programming, as well as product placements.” The chairman said nothing of the sort.

FTC staff have found that ordinary product placements in television programming do not raise deception concerns under the FTC Act.

Though the FTC is reviewing a recommendation from the Institute of Medicine to assess industry self-regulation of children’s food ads, that review does not include consideration of an FTC “strike” against snack-food commercials.

Nancy Ness Judy

Public affairs director, FTC

Slam on News Study Unfair

Editor: Your editorial about the Lear Center Local News Archive’s research findings [“An Incomplete Grade,” Feb. 21, page 44] would be more persuasive if it actually contended with the facts.

The time period for the month of stories captured was 5 p.m. to 11:30 pm. It was not chosen by researchers; it was picked by the industry itself. In the 1998 report of the Gore Commission, co-chaired by CBS head Leslie Moonves, broadcasters chose that exact time period, in the month before an election.

Eleven markets of varying sizes were in the 2004 study, accounting for 23% of the nation’s TV viewers. The findings were consistent with the 2002 study of 122 stations in the top 50 markets and the 2000 study of 74 stations in 58 markets. If the industry or its apologists wants a [full study of] all stations, it should make itself accountable to the public by disclosing its news content online, and it should call on regulators to conduct such studies. Maybe it should even fund them.

Martin Kaplan

Associate dean, USC Annenberg School for Communication Director, The Norman Lear Center

(Editor’s note: Viewership patterns and the entire media landscape have changed since 1998 and the Gore Commission. Our complaint was that this study was used by many to tar and feather the entire industry. We are most concerned that results of a limited study could be used by the FCC or Congress to impose new rules for broadcasters everywhere. We don’t want the government to tell stations how they should cover campaigns.)

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