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EXCLUSIVE: CBS Resolves Nickelodeon Advertising Complaint

CBS has gotten to the bottom of a perplexing consumer complaint that it was running commercials for it gory procedural drama CSI during Nickelodeon kids programming.

In response to the complaint, the Children's Advertising Review Unit (CARU) opened an inquiry into the "appropriateness" of CBS promoting CSI on Nickelodeon. The inquiry began with a letter to CBS outlining the complaint and asking for CBS' defense or explanation. In many cases, advertisements are inadvertently placed in the wrong show.

According to CARU, which is basically the industry's self-regulatory body,  CBS declined to provide that defense. It responded that the network would "handle the complaint through its own self-regulatory process."

Turns out CBS did get to the bottom of the complaint, and told B&C the appearance of the advertisement was a mistake.  

“We are committed to airing age appropriate promos during children’s programming," said Mike Nelson, VP of communication for the CBS Television Station Group. "In this very unusual case, a local cable operator [Comcast] gave our station [Kyw-TV Philadelphia) bonus promotion spots. The cable operator put the particular promo into their own local Nickelodeon inventory without the knowledge or approval of the network or station, and in contravention of our own standards. We have reached out to the local cable operator to ensure it doesn’t happen again.”

CBS said it would share that explanation with CARU.

That comes even as the

FCC is preparing a report

suggesting possible government actions to curb violence on TV.

On Feb. 15, the Childrens Advertising Review Unit of the Council of Better Business Bureaus issued a press release saying it was "disappointed" that CBS had declined to participate in the self-regulatory process.  

Even without an explanation, CARU did not take the step of referring CBS to the Federal Trade Commission. They went to the FTC when studio Lions Gate did not respond to a

request for information

on a content "appropriateness" complaint. According to CARU spokesperson Linda Bean, the difference is Lions Gate did not acknowledge the complaint. CBS did acknowledge the complaint, but said they would handle the matter internally.

CARU is charged with reviewing the accuracy and appropriateness of advertising to kids according to industry guidelines.

According to those guidelines, ads for videos and movies "should not portray or encourage behavior inappropriate for children (e.g., violence or sexuality) or include material that could unduly frighten or
provoke anxiety in children."