Los Angeles (September 27, 2007)– In response to a formal joint letter sent today to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin J. Martin from House Subcommittee on Telecommunications Chairman Edward J. Markey and House Subcommittee on Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Henry A. Waxman, which raises concerns over increased product integration on television and in the entertainment industry, the Writers Guild of America, West (WGAW) and the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) have united in their public support on this key issue of concern to both creative artists and consumers alike.
“I want to thank Chairman Markey and Chairman Waxman for their leadership and support on this critical issue. Product integration without the constructive consultation of creative artists has been of growing concern to writers from its earliest days in reality TV where it was developed and fostered. Comprehensive disclosure rules are now necessary to protect the talent community, vital for viewers and consumers, and essential to the creative integrity of American media,” remarked WGAW President Patric M. Verrone. “We also appreciate the efforts of Chairman Martin and all the members of the Commission for initiating the rulemaking process, and the guild looks forward to working with Congress and the FCC on this important issue.”
“We are encouraged that members of Congress and the FCC are shining a bright light on product integration. Actors can lose endorsement contracts with advertisers because they are linked with products as a result of product integration on TV series and motion pictures. The public has a right to know that the networks and studios are profiting from these arrangements with advertisers,” commented SAG President Alan Rosenberg.
Noting some 4,000 instances of product integration that appeared on network television in 2006, Chairmen Markey and Waxman argued in their joint letter to the FCC’s Martin: “In our view, the blurring of the line between advertising and content represented by product placement and integration is unfair and deceptive if it occurs without adequate disclosures to the viewing public. In some extreme cases, it may also undermine the integrity of the television programming itself.”
Markey and Waxman went on to insist that “broadcasters and cable operators should comply in a meaningful way with their statutory obligation to identify what entity is behind sponsored programming and what product is being pitched,” adding that “if the use of product placement and product integration places marketing objectives ahead of creative interests, the programmer risks undercutting the artistic and educational value of the television show.”
Finally, Markey and Waxman urged in their letter that, “We believe the Commission shoul examine the growth of product placement and product integration and how this trend affects the overall composition and nature of television programming. As part of this inquiry, the Commission should also review the criteria broadcasters and cable operators use to distinguish between commercial and creative content.”
Last week at the FCC’s latest field hearing in Chicago to address media ownership, WGAW President Patric M. Verrone formally asked the FCC to consider adopting a rule requiring networks to clearly disclose to viewers when advertisers have paid to insert branded advertising and other forms of product integration into television programs.
During his opening statement at last Thursday’s FCC hearing, Chairman Martin announced that he had recently circulated a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking “to my colleagues seeking comment on the relationship between the Commission’s sponsorship identification rules and increasing industry reliance on embedded advertising techniques,” adding that the NPRM “seeks comment on whether it is necessary to amend the Commission’s sponsorshipidentification rules to ensure adequate disclosure to the public.”