Finally, TV Warning Labels That Mean Something

Fake News written by Martha Throebeck on Thursday, October 2, 2003

from the self-censorship-can-be-good dept.

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- In an effort to combat runaway product placements within television shows, the FCC voted today to require TV networks to insert warning labels before each show. In addition, by the end of next year, all new TV sets must include a 'Y-chip' that allows the viewer to automatically screen out shows containing excessive sponsorships.

"Forget about sex and violence on TV, the real problem is Madison Avenue brainwashing," explained a leading FCC bureaucrat. "Now, the TV networks must come clean about the level of crass commercialism in their shows."

Under the new system, each program will be rated according to its level of marketing. The rating scheme will range from 'A' (no sponsors at all, suitable for all viewers) to 'I' (indistinguishable from an infomercial, recommended only for people with too much free time) to 'Z' (makes a Soviet propaganda film look reasonable).

The networks must also disclose what percentage of each show includes obvious and not-so-obvious commercials. "Each second of airtime that includes a product placement or an on-screen dancing promotional graphic will be counted as a commercial, not real content," explained the FCC bureaucrat. "This information will be disclosed with each show and the viewer will have the opportunity to block them using their Y-chip."

As an example, the FCC presented the warning label that would appear before a typical prime time sitcom: "WARNING: While the running length of this program is 30 minutes, 20% of that time is devoted to standalone commercials, 32% contains subtle product placements and references, and the remaining 48% features annoying on-screen graphics promoting shows that have nothing to do with this one and for which you probably don't give a [bleeping][bleep]. Oh, and this program also contains course language, but nothing that your kids haven't already heard at the playground."

Meanwhile, a movie shown on TV might contain this warning after each commercial break, "WARNING: The length of this movie has been stretched from 2 hours to 3.5 hours by adding a ton of commercials; by watching this movie on TV instead of on DVD you are wasting 90 minutes of your life. You have been warned. Also, the nudity, violence, and profanity contained in this movie has been removed for this TV version and so, if you don't want to be bored to death, you might as well watch the real thing on DVD."

TV networks have immediately attacked the new policy, claiming that it will encourage more viewers to steal their shows. "When a person watches a show but skips the commercials, they are nothing more than a common thief," ranted an executive for SeeBS. "A common thief!"

"We have tried to thwart these pirates by putting product placements in the middle of shows that cannot easily be skipped," the exec continued, "but now the FCC is trying to stop us. If we cannot have product placements and cross-promotional branding tie-ins, then just how the heck are we supposed to pay the multi-million dollar salaries of the actors in our shows? This is an outrage!"

The FCC argues that their policy does not prohibit TV channels from using product placements or other brainwashing tactics in their shows. "You can have your actors drink from cans of Choke cola all day long... just as long as you are honest about it. The First Amendment prevents us from dictating the content of shows... but we can require warning labels. If a box of nails is required to have a label that says, 'Warning: Do Not Eat', then we are certainly within our right to require TV shows to have their own disclaimers."

We tried to obtain a response from the local SeeBS affiliate, but their spokesperson was busy eating delicious Bloreetoh® brand potato chips and sucking down cool, frosty Dubbwizzer(tm) adult beverages while enjoying the smooth, satisfying aroma of Cancermatic® cigarettes, and was therefore unavailable for comment at press time.