Wants org to establish integration disclosure

The Writers Guild of America West wants the FCC to write the script on product integration disclosure.

In a letter to Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin, WGAW prexy Patric Verrone urged the agency “to establish guidelines requiring onscreen, real-time disclosure on TV programming where product integration occurs to make viewers aware of the range of products they are overtly — and more often covertly — being sold.”

FCC officials heard testimony about product integration during hearings held last year on the topic of media ownership. The agency has been preparing to initiate some kind of proposed notice of rulemaking on the matter and is expected to release it soon.

Verrone described product integration as “the embedding of commercial products within the storyline of a program, so as to subliminally advertise to viewers. The hope is that consumers, not expecting to find a commercial within their program, will fail to realize they are actually being advertised to. This practice exploits the emotional connection viewers have with shows and their characters in order to sell a product.”

Verrone also reiterated a point he and other guild members have been making about the creative consequences of product integration.

“When writers are told we must incorporate a commercial product into the storylines we have written, we cease to be creators,” he wrote. “Instead, we run the risk of alienating an audience that expects compelling television, not commercials.”

Verrone said that the guild’s preference would be a complete ban on product integration but conceded that it may be too late for such a measure. Acknowledging that the line between commercial advertising and narrative programming has “already been crossed,” Verrone said that “the best way to alert consumers that products have been integrated into programming is for the FCC to create rules requiring real-time disclosure at the time the product is mentioned, referenced or exhibited.”

An industry source characterized the WGAW proposal as unworkable. End credits on network shows carry the disclosure info, the source said, adding that product placement has not been an issue for viewers.

“There’s no huge hue and cry we get from audiences about this,” the source said.

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