Saturday, January 24, 2015


        Yesterday I posted an article calling attention to the frequent cutting off of commercials on my favorite news channel, MSNBC. Their sponsors are getting short-changed!
       Now I have a beef on the other side of the coin. I resent the amount of time devoted to commercials! MSNBC is no worse than any other channel or station in this regard. I remember when half-hour programs were limited to three and a half minutes of commercial time. Those were the days! How different it is now!
        Way back in 1951 the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) adopted a code of practices for television broadcasters. It prescribed not only the amount time that should be devoted to commercials but also a set of ethical standards prohibiting such things as the use of inappropriate sex, profanity, and the disparagement of God and religion. Television broadcasters indicated their compliance with the Code by displaying a "Seal of Good Practice" in the closing credits.
       In 1979 the Justice Department brought suit against the NAB to discontinue the code on the grounds that “the NAB had violated Section 1 of the Sherman (Anti-Trust)Act by combining and conspiring to restrain trade. Specifically . . . the NAB had promulgated and enforced a television code, certain provisions of which restricted the quantity, placement, and format of television advertisements” (47 Fed. Reg. 32813, 29 July 1982). The suit led to the eventual dropping of the code by the NAB in 1983.
        The abolition of the code has in turn led to the increase of commercial time to 30% or more of the total, along with a proliferation of violence, sex, and obscene language that are of concern to many viewers. Their complaints are countered by First Amendment advocates, who are quick to attack anything that restricts freedom of speech, or smacks of censorship. But that’s another issue. My concern here is the high percentage of time now consumed by commercials, not to mention the growing practice of embedding sponsors’ products in the program itself.
        I don’t know how many people are as disturbed as I am about this, but if enough viewers complained about it, maybe the broadcasters would feel the pressure and cut back a bit. Or is that just wishful thinking?

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