Senate Commerce Committee chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) is asking the Federal Communications Commission to probe a Jackson, Miss., TV station that charged people to be interviewed by news personnel.
In a Nov. 3 letter to FCC chairman Michael Powell, McCain asked whether the station adequately advised viewers that the individuals interviewed by WLBT-TV had paid to appear.
McCain also asked the commission to examine another "pay-for-play" experiment at WFLA-TV, the NBC affiliate in Tampa, Fla.
"The station airs a local morning show, Daytime, with NBC's peacock logo and WFLA-TV's ‘News Channel 8' insignia at the bottom of the screen. Segments of the program, however, are actually paid advertisements. The program's anchors interview guests who pay $2,500 to appear on the program," McCain explained.
McCain, citing press reports, also expressed concern that radio stations were threatening not to air the music of bands that would not appear at live concerns to promote the stations.
"In light of this apparent emergence of novel means of profiting from broadcast airtime in ways that appear not fully disclosed to the public, I am writing to inquire whether you believe the [FCC's] rules on sponsorship identification and `payola' are adequate," McCain said in the one-page letter.
He also asked Powell whether Congress needed to step in "to ensure that broadcasters do not continue to deceive viewers through such `sham' television programs as Daytime, or to preclude radio stations from demanding performances from musicians as compensation for airtime."