FCC Fines WCIU-TV $16.5K Over Pokemon Characters Appearing in Ads

A Chicago TV station got burned by limited-edition Pokemon Eggo waffles and kicked by Fruit by the Foot.

The Federal Communications Commission Friday proposed fining the station, WCIU-TV, $16,500 for a series of violations of its limits on commercials during kids’ TV shows, including six program-length commercials.

The FCC said any appearance of a character from a TV show in a commercial placed within that show turns the whole program into a commercial.

Six of those program-length commercials involved Pokemon, but let's let the FCC's Media Bureau, with some help from the station, describe it: "The licensee stated that on four occasions, the station aired a commercial for Eggo waffles containing ‘fleeting images’ of a Pokemon character during the Pokemon program," the bureau said in its notice proposing the fine.

"According to the licensee’s description, a Pokemon character appeared during the commercial and transformed 'into an embossed image of itself on several Eggo waffles' while the announcer stated, 'And look out for limited-edition Pokemon Eggo waffles,’” the Media Bureau continued. “‘You can catch ‘em all.' Further, the licensee reported that on two occasions, the station aired a commercial for a General Mills 'Fruit by the Foot' product containing a 'fleeting appearance' by a Pokemon character during the Pokemon program.”

The station argued that the appearances were fleeting, minor, would not have harmed a child viewer and didn't turn the shows into commercials. The FCC disagreed.

The FCC also proposed fining another station, WNAB (TV) Nashville, Tenn. (no kin to the National Association of Broadcasters), $14,000 for failing to put four years' worth of material in its public-inspection files as it relates to its programs/issues list (a listing of programs the station has aired responsive to issues of concern to its community).

Coincidentally, the fine was proposed on the same day the NAB announced its challenge of an FCC rule change that would require broadcasters to put even more information in their public files about even more programming.

Both stations cited by the FCC volunteered the information about their potential problems as part of their requests for license renewals.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.