The FCC has taken time out from its tireless war on the f- and s-words to fine Comcast $4,000 for airing a fake news segment, otherwise known as a “video news release” (VNR), for a product called Nelson’s Rescue Sleep during a newscast on its CN8 network. The proper use of VNRs—PR videos made to look like TV news reports—has been debated for at least 15 years, so it’s odd that the FCC should step in now, especially since cable TV falls outside the commission’s jurisdiction. (The FCC’s rationale, with pseudospeak terms like “origination cablecasting,” seems pretty half-baked.) CN8 probably has about eight viewers, so the controversy (prompted by a complaint from the Center for Media & Democracy, a group of hand-wringing journalists with way too much time on their hands), is providing a terrific boost in recognition for the Nelson’s brand. Maybe Comcast tipped off the CMD as part of the media buy.
—Posted by David Gianatasio