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Adelstein Applauds FCC’s Actions Against VNRs

Among the priorities of the Federal Communications Commission in 2008 should be dealing with a lot more of the complaints about unattributed video-news releases, FCC commissioner Jonathan Adelstein said Thursday.

Commenting on an FCC Enforcement Bureau summary of its actions in the past year, which included issuing a handful of proposed fines for VNR use, Adelstein said he understood that those initial few had to be focused on due to statute-of-limitations issues.

But he added that he expected the commission to move forward on "a large raft" of complaints.

"Whether dealing with payola or VNRs or product placement," he said, "the commission's fundamental concern is the same. The American public deserves to know when someone is trying to persuade them … and so I am glad we are really bringing that to the forefront of our enforcement efforts."

Complaints had been lodged last year by the Center for Media and Democracy, Free Press and others against more than 100 VNRs, mostly on TV stations, but the FCC's first of what could be numerous proposed fines was against a big cable company, Comcast.

The fact that the vast majority of complaints had been against TV stations but that Comcast was at the head of the line for fines raised questions of whether FCC chairman Kevin Martin was targeting cable, but the official explanation from Martin was that all of the others had signed so-called tolling agreements that would allow the FCC to continue to investigate the complaints beyond the statute of limitations, while Comcast had not.