Product placements in television shows should be flagged for viewers—in real time—according to a letter from the Writers Guild of America sent to the Federal Communications Commission.
Additionally, the writers are calling on the FCC to curb the use of "video news releases," which are news stories prepared by manufacturers or organizations but used in local news telecasts as stories, without noting the source.
The WGA letter, penned by West division president Patric Verrone (pictured), states the union's position that product placement should be banned from the airwaves. But, since that line has already been crossed, the next best thing, suggests the union, would be incorporating real-time crawls that notify consumers that an advertiser paid for a product in a scene to be placed there.
"Since crawls are used with relative frequency, and viewers are accustomed to this practice, such a crawl would be no more intrusive than the warnings required for pharmaceutical ads or the network identifiers or "bugs" that are now a mainstay of our visual field," Verrone wrote.
As for the VNRs, the WGA asked the FCC to ban them outright.
"This practice is unbelievably deceptive and is an attempt to trick the viewer to think that a paid advertisement is actually news," Verrone wrote.
The FCC is expected to announce a notice of proposed rule-making this week on product placement in broadcasting.
Product placement has also been a major issue in the negotiations between another union, the Screen Actors Guild, and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. Those talks are being conducted now, and SAG is pushing for a share of any revenue for actors from product placement in the shows in which they appear.