Capital Watch

Do Call

Broadcasters and cable operators have asked the FCC for leniency in revised "do not call" rules the agency is crafting for telemarketers.

The National Association of Broadcasters has asked that the FCC clarify that prerecorded messages sent by radio and TV stations to remind their audience to tune in at a particular time for a chance to win a prize falls under the exemption for promotions that "do not seek to sell a product or service."

The revisions affect rules the FCC issued to implement the 1991 Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which established do-not-call lists. Two broadcast groups, Cox Radio and Susquehanna Radio, face separate class-action suits alleging station promotions violated the rules. "The broadcasters relied in good faith on statements by Congress and the commission regarding the scope and purpose of the exemptions," the NAB said.

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association asked that the FCC preserve exemptions for calls to individuals with whom a marketer has an "established business relationship," such as cable subscribers. "Such calls often provide consumers with benefits and welcome service enhancements," NCTA said. Additionally, NCTA said the FCC should coordinate revisions with the Federal Trade Commission, which is crafting its own changes.

Incidentally, Reed Elsevier Inc., parent company of TV Fax
and Broadcasting & Cable, asked for preservation of exemptions for calls to existing customers. Reed Elsevier also asked the FCC to clarify that, for faxes sent to individuals and businesses, the fact that they have provided their fax numbers constitutes consent for the communications to be sent.

Nets Defend News Study

The Big Four broadcast networks are jeering affiliates' complaints about an FCC study showing O&Os offer more local news.

In response to a filing two weeks ago by the Network Affiliated Stations Alliance and the NAB, the networks said the affils' demand that stations be compared by market size favors the affils only if Fox O&Os and affils are excluded. NASA and the NAB can show O&Os and affils present the same amount of news "only by manipulating—indeed completely ignoring—data," the networks said.

An Economists Inc. study commissioned by the networks found that O&Os carry approximately 30% more news and public-affairs minutes per week than affils. The NASA/NAB rationale for excluding Fox stations—that Fox O&Os vary more than average in the amount of local news programming and many were recently acquired from independent operators —is "absurd," the EI study said. NASA and the NAB are fighting the nets' effort to increase the 35% cap on one company's TV household reach.

FTC Slams Padded Breast Claims

The Federal Trade Commission has settled with Vital Dynamics, a California company over the deceptive marketing—including extensive TV and radio ads—of the Isis "breast-enhancement" system. The complaint alleged that the company and principals Geoffrey Knight, Mark Berman and Allen Smith could not back up their efficacy claims for the product, a combination herbal supplement and topical cream.

Physician, Wound Thyself

Anti-TV activists are asking the FCC to require stations to air messages urging parents to limit children's viewing time and warning them that excessive TV viewing has negative health, academic and other consequences. The TV-Turnoff Network said the requirement should be imposed as a condition of relaxed media-ownership limits the commission is expected to issue next year. The group, founded in 1994, claims more than 65 national organizations "support or endorse" its TV-Turnoff Week, including the National Education Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics.