UTICA — Mayor David Roefaro (D) wants the FCC to ban the use of the term “breaking news” in broadcast advertising. In a letter to the FCC, Roefaro calls the practice a “cheap advertising tactic” aimed at taking advantage of consumers.
In a press release entitled “Let’s Protect Consumers From Cheap Advertising Tactic,” Roefaro’s office says his letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski was inspired by an elderly citizen who recently called a City Hall complaint hotline to express frustration over spots that “try and trick people into thinking, even if for a second, that they are actually news.”
Roefaro goes on to explain the use of the term “Breaking News” may “confuse people, especially the elderly, into thinking there’s a local emergency.” Outside of the FCC letter, Roefaro says of the practice, “That’s wrong. That’s confusing. That’s false advertising.”
Currently, there are no regulations regarding the use of the term “Breaking News” on television or radio. Even within the scope of a legitimate newscast, there’s no universal standard dictating what qualifies as “breaking news” and what doesn’t. Theoretically, any broadcast news outlet could choose to label every single story in a newscast as “breaking news” — but knowing such a move would alienate audiences, stations are usually judicious about their use of the term.
While the press release on the City of Utica’s website has a screenshot of a “breaking news” graphic, it doesn’t mention the specific commercial or advertiser which inspired the letter, nor the channel(s) on which the offending advertisement aired.
Here’s the complete text of Roefaro’s letter to Julius Genachowski:
Julius Genachowski, Chairman
Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street SW
Washington, DC 20554
I’m writing concerning an important consumer issue brought to my attention by an elderly woman calling one of my complaint hotlines. In her call, she tells a story about being confused by commercials that try and trick people into thinking, even if for a second, that they are actually news. These commercials display the term, “Breaking News” across the bottom of television screens and confuse people, especially the elderly, into thinking there’s a local emergency or something worthy of their attention.
This marketing tactic is just plain wrong. In fact, I believe the tactic should be considered false advertising because of the great lengths these corporations go to create an actual news setting. At the very least, the FCC should ban corporations from scrolling the very serious term across the bottom of a television when the only goal is to make a sale or catch the eye of a channel changing consumer.
Companies that abuse the term “Breaking News” are only hurting the government, inoculating a term that is often used to communicate important local or national information. Banning the term for television marketing purposes makes sense because corporate America shouldn’t be scamming people into watching their commercials. There needs to be some oversight on this false advertising issue.
Moreover, the advertising strategy foretells the role corporate America is strategizing to play in the everyday lives of Americans. They want more and more control over the everyday consumer. These corporations undoubtedly desire increasing influence to sell their products, services or ideas and they’ll stop at nothing to achieve the sale.
Again, for the sake of consumers, you should carefully monitor this situation. I appreciate your time and remain available to discuss this issue with you at anytime.
David R. Roefaro
Roefaro was elected Mayor of Utica in 2007. In March, he announced he would be running for re-election this fall.
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