KMSP, a Fox station in Minneapolis-St. Paul, and WMGM, an NBC affiliate in New Jersey, have both been fined by the FCC for “apparent willful violation of section 317 of the Communications Act,” which says outlets must properly disclose when segments that air have been sponsored. Each station was fined $4,000.
The segment WMGM broadcast was about zinc-based medicine like Zicam. And the KMSP spot was about convertible sales that featured General Motors prominently. In both cases, footage from VNRs (Zicam and GM respectively) was used. The stations brought up the issue of payment (or lack thereof) in their own defense. KMSP also argued that the FCC is stepping on the toes of editorial choice.
FCC investigations of VNRs was a big issue for the PR industry a few years back. But, as PRNewser reported in 2009, they’re not widely used anymore. Nowadays with the popularity of video for YouTube channels, corporate sites, and other online locations, the need for VNRs would seemingly drop even farther.