According to an article over at Ars Technica, public interest groups have convinced the FCC to intervene in the matter of embedded advertising in television programming. (Read the article here.) This brings up an important concept.
Embedded advertising is when products are placed inside a program in a way that makes them blatantly viewable. For example, you may see your favorite characters enjoying a particular product throughout an episode or they may be performing in front of signs that describe the advertised product. Note that this is already prohibited in programs targeting children.
At this point, the FCC is only looking for recommendations on what should be done. This is far better than the reactionary behavior occasionally seen in this organization where some of their more notable rules changes have been panicked attempts to solve the complaints from vocal minorities over various "offenses". Still, this is not the issue that worries me most.
What is of greatest concern is the argument made by the groups who have been pressing for action. They want the FCC to put an end to embedded advertising. They want ads to be clearly separated from the programs themselves. What could be the reason for this?
The problem, they say, is that viewers will not know that they are being advertised to unless the ads are clearly delineated. Is it possible that viewers are so limited in intelligence that they must be protected in this manner? Well, obviously there are plenty of morons out there who can barely tell the difference between television and reality. That's not the reason that I am upset by this whole thing.
The thing that gets me is that these groups won't come out and state clearly why they want to "protect" viewers. The only reason to prohibit embedded ads is to protect morons from themselves. I want these groups to state explicitly why viewers need this protection. I want the groups to state that too many viewers are stupid.
By dancing around the assertion that they are trying to protect morons, these groups are far more guilty of subterfuge than any embedded advertisement. They are attempting to hide their motivations from the public because they know that the people they wish to protect would be offended by the reasons. It is hard to herd people if you acknowledge that you are herding them because they are stupid.
So, FCC, before you get too far into protecting the "viewers," please take the time to clarify, in simple language, why you need to act in this manner. Please have the decency to say that you are trying to protect morons.
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