Truth, attribution and proper sourcing of TV and other media content is becoming more complex. Are media consumers ready for more work to secure entertainment consumption?
The Federal Communications Commission just hit Sinclair Broadcast Group with the largest fine of its kind ever -- $13.4 million -- for running content in 2016 that was not labelled as sponsored.
TV content for the Huntsman Cancer Institute in Utah was promoted by Sinclair in a 60-second and a 90-second spot that were also run as half-hour programs. This content aired on other stations; the FCC says it ran some 1,700 times.
Sinclair did not identify the spots as sponsored content. But Sinclair says this was just a big, bad mistake.
This ruling follows ongoing criticism by TV critics and other TV news executives that Sinclair is pushing too much conservative-minded news content. However, it has not run into any issue/problems with the FCC in this regard.
This comes as Sinclair pursues its big $3.9 billion deal for Tribune Media, which will result in a 233 station group, covering more than 70% of U.S. TV households.
Yes, stuff like this does happen. But ask yourself about future attribution of all programming/content, and whether media consumers are asking the right questions about where media comes from -- advertising, editorial and/or a combo of both.
This goes into territory where Facebook, Twitter and Google have landed via advertising on its platforms -- stuff that even has had “sponsorship” labels. We all need to go deeper, beyond what safeguards digital media platforms are using internally.
More questions will be asked about where content is coming from: Eastern European social media troll centers; big political donors like the Koch brothers; The New York Times, The Washington Post, Politico; the Fox News Channel; or perhaps just a cancer institute looking to help people.
And then we might ask the opposite question: Why is USA Network airing two wrestling shows -- WWE's “Monday Night Raw” and “SmackDown Live” -- largely commercial-free, December 25 and December 26?
Increasingly, we are asking media consumers to be journalists all the time -- to distinguish real from fake news, to determine ordinary content from sponsored promotional content that may or may not be properly labelled.
As networks blur the lines with native advertising and branded entertainment of content marketing stuff, will growing consumer fatigue and apathy result? Will media be even more fractionalized and suspect as a result?