FCC Proposes $4,000 Fine On Comcast For Broadcasting "Fake News"

The FCC, always a source of amusement for this website, has decided to crack down on Comcast for broadcasting VNRs or “Video News Releases.” VNRs are produced by PR firms for use as filler by lazy TV news producers. It’s a great deal for TV: They get free content and don’t have to deal with the pressure of doing their jobs properly, and the company gets product placement. Consumers are the only losers.

The FCC filing says that a complaint was filed by the Center for Media and Democracy alleging that on September 21, 2006, Comcast broadcast a VNR for Nelson’s Rescue Sleep without providing the sponsorship identification required by law. Comcast argues that they’re not covered under that law because they didn’t receive any compensation for showing the VNR.

The VNR in question was shoehorned into a daily “consumer issues” segment on the CN8 show “Art Fennel Reports.” From the FCC:

CN8’s cablecast featuring “Nelson’s Rescue Sleep” was part of a daily segment on “Art Fennell Reports” focusing on consumer issues. concerned non-prescription sleep aids. The segment featured only “Nelson’s Rescue Sleep,” a commercial, natural sleep-aid product, and included portions of a VNR produced by D.S. Simon Productions on behalf of “Nelson’s Rescue Sleep.”

The VNR material used in this consumer-issues segment contains extensive images and mentions of the product and includes the statement that “If you are one of the estimated 70 million Americans who have trouble sleeping – Rescue Sleep may be what you’re looking for.”

We do not believe that this type of promotional material, furnished by a product manufacturer, can or should be considered within the scope of the proviso, which is directed to material that contains only fleeting or transient references to products or brand names. We conclude that even though CN8 received this material at no charge, it falls within the exception specifically set forth in the rule and that a sponsorship announcement was thus required. We therefore find that Comcast violated Section 76.1615(a) of the Commission’s rules by willfully airing the VNR material at issue without proper sponsorship identification.

FCC proposes ‘fake news’ fine [Yahoo!]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Only $4,000? That’s a drop in the bucket for Comcast. Then again, knowing them, they’ll probably write it off on consumer bills as a Federal Charge.

  2. CumaeanSibyl says:

    Uh-huh, I just bet they didn’t get any compensation. None whatsoever.

    (If nothing else, they got the “compensation” of being able to slack off at work… how many hours would it have taken them to produce content for that slot?)

  3. moorie679 says:

    I hate comcast….Just moved to Jersey and they are the only cable provider in this area and rates were through the roof. So I just wanted to get the cheapest service to get channels that you can get over the air with a TV antenna….. It was going to cost me 15.00$ a month and 60.00$ for installation. I asked what he was going to install and the reply just baffled me……”Installer will check to make sure that all the cables in your apartment are connected properly” that is retarded………they want to charge me 60$ to connect the cable outlet to the TV……so I just got an antenna…..10$ however a little snowy.

  4. synergy says:

    I’ve seen the local news play things that I think is something like this, but I’m still a little fuzzy on what a video like this would look like. Is there any video of which segment is being fined?

  5. SoCalGNX says:

    Others have been doing this for years. Some call it infotainment. Its bread and circuses all over again.

  6. harshmellow says:

    I have heard about these for years, but I don’t think I have seen one. More and more, it seems like marketing people are the scum of the earth.

  7. Trai_Dep says:

    If the FCC wants to really generate some money for stations airing fake news, they should simply sue Fox News for the entirety of their programming. Even at a measely $4,000 a pop, it’d cut the US budget deficit in half.

  8. mikull says:

    @ TRAI_DEP: took the words outta my mouth.