Spain’s public TV company RTVE was fined 730,000 euros ($859,000) recently for running “covert” advertising after the nation’s Supreme Court rejected the company’s appeal. RTVE has been fined before for this kind of advertising.
The broadcaster was found to have broken the law 12 times over the past two years with commercials on shows like “MasterChef” (a U.S. version of the Fox Television Network show) and “Operacion Triunfo,” a reality-television talent show. Both shows are produced by Endemol Shine International.
We don’t know the details. But we guess there is some misdirected sponsorship of programming, possibly in the form of brand product/messaging placement.
The flipside of this would seem head-scratching -- but not in the usual sense. Illicit advertising airing 12 times over two years doesn’t seem to amount to much when running a 24/7 TV network, especially a longtime European channel.
In this country, the public broadcaster PBS network has regularly sold advertising messaging for some time -- all proper.
But those TV commercials need to have different copy. No qualitative or comparative language. Words cannot include, per the FCC, "beautiful," "dependable," "inviting," "gentle," "more," "soft" or "excellent." You also can’t suggest to “buy now” or "call today."
Still, one viewer view might suggest: “Wait! My tax dollars are paying for this?”
RTVE did have advertising until 2010, when new laws forbid such messaging around TV content. The difference in Spain is RTVE is a much stronger player in terms of overall viewership, more competitive to private and online broadcasters -- this versus how PBS compares to ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox etc.
In particular, we assume those reality TV shows on RTVE have much to do with branded entertainment.
In the U.S., some critics believe branded entertainment marketing might be a “covert” marketing move on privately owned TV -- though not illegal. Branded entertainment has been a rising big deal for the last 20 years, every since the summer of 2000 -- the first iteration of CBS’ “Survivor” series.
Still, if you are waiting for PBS to “sneak” in a "beautiful" McDonalds spot touting Chicken McNuggets, don’t worry. Viewers might just shrug their shoulders, even if one actor takes a bite and says “delicious.”