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Pokemon Strikes Again

As predicted, Pokemon has struck again.

As if New Orleans TV stations didn't have enough to worry about, the FCC Wednesday admonished (an official reprimand) Tribune's WNOL there for the increasingly infamous Nintendo Gameboy E-Reader spot.

Last week, the FCC admonished WATL Atlanta and KSHV Shreveport, La., for a Sept. 24, 2002, ad for a Gameboy Advance E-Reader that briefly flashed a Pokemon card during a broadcast of The WB show Pokemon. KSHV said it was only for 1.04 seconds and was not verbally identified as Pokemon, in fact only showing the "mon" in a fan of cards. I similarly admonished WTVZ Norfolk, Va., last month for the same spot.

Tribune made the same argument for WNOL and got the same admonition. Tribune had a more direct role in the overage, however, since it is a partner in The WB network that supplied the offending spot.

The FCC says that the appearance of any character in both a commercial and a show--so-called host selling--turns the entire show into a program-length commercial and a defacto violation of the limits on commercials in kids shows (10.5 hours on weekends, 12 minutes on weekdays).

The commission has admonished stations for even so fleeting a reference because it said Congress was "particularly concerned about host-selling."

The station volunteered the overage in its license-renewal application. The license expired June 1, but the FCC is trying to get through a backlog of applications. It made no mention of the status of WNOL's renewal in Wednesday's admonishion, though it should not affect that renewal if past FCC performance is any indication of future returns.