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Adelstein: Ban Interactive Ads to Kids

FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein was in a revolutionary mood in his address to media reformers at the Free Press conference in St. Louis Saturday, decrying commercialism as a "pernicious symptom of consolidation" and calling for the FCC to immediately ban interactive advertising to children.

In a May 14 speech, Adelstein invoked Bill Moyers address to the first National Media Reform conference in Madison, Wis., in November 2003. In that speech, Moyers, in a ringing, stinging keynote, called the battle against deregulation a "struggle for the soul of Democracy" and referenced the American Revolution as precedent.

But in addition to invoking minutemen, Adelstein took aim at the 30-second, and 15-second men and women of the advertising community, decrying the "rapacious advertising preying on the unsuspecting minds of our children."

He also took aim at product placement that "turns news and entertainment shows alike into undisclosed commercials," and information placement in the form of "Video news releases masquerading as news," with "PR agents pushing political and commercial agendas, squeezing out real news coverage."

He called for his audience to start recording examples of product placements, VNRs, or a news segment that looked like an ad, check and see whether there is a disclosure anywhere, and if not, file a formal complaint because, he conceded, "we don't get any complaints about this sort of thing," though he suggested it was because they didn't know it was going on. "We're going to shut down the fraud that is being perpetrated on the American people by the media."

Adelstein railed against "big media"-fostered "negative sterotypes about increasingly course, violent culture [an apparent reference to the connection between consolidation and the content the FCC is being asked to crack down on], which he contrasted to the more diverse picture that could be painted by more independently controlled outlets.

The good news, says Adelstein, is that Congress appears to be ready to require disclosure of government VNRs. In addition, he argued, the media reform movement has helped turn media ownership into the "third rail of FCC politics, and your the energy that charges it and gives the life that makes people in Washington very, very nervous about ever touching it."