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Television station standards for acceptable advertising.

Television Station Standards for Acceptable Advertising

While a media vehicle's right to reject questionable advertising material possesses a strong potential force for consumer protection, an unanswered question exists of whether the set of standards applied by individual local television stations actually serves as a significant factor working for consumer interests. This study examines the standards applied by television stations in deciding which commercials would be acceptable for broadcast.

No United States mass media vehicle--television station, magazine, radio station, or newspaper--is required to accept any commercial advertising material it does not wish to carry. Policies and procedures that determine which ads are acceptable, the business activity generally referred to as the "clearance process," became a major focus of consumer protection concerns following deregulation of government involvement in advertising regulation (Hamm 1988; Hayes and Rotfeld 1988). While government agencies greatly decreased their activities during the past decade, the peril of consumer deception remained (Hayes 1987; Kerton and Bodell 1987). The primary research question addressed is how readily media managers restrict revenue by rejecting advertising to serve consumer protection concerns. Many business leaders presume that the clearance process forms a bulwark of consumer protection (Colford 1987), but whether or not it is an effective force working in the consumer's interest beyond the activities of the most well-known companies is unknown.


"It is virtually impossible to run an ad ... without exposing that ad or that commercial to prior review by the [vehicle's owner] or one of the owner's representatives" (Bernstein 1986). "Prior review" can mean, in some instances, provision of strong consumer protection against false and deceptive ads, but it does not necessarily translate into a regular oversight practice by all vehicles, nor does it imply that clearance activities by trade associations or individual vehicles are predomenantly oriented toward consumer protection.

Until 1982, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) Television Code provided a major influence on broadcast advertising practice. To consumers, "undesirable" advertising might be found on nonabiding outlets, and fewer than two-thirds of the television stations followed the voluntary code. However, the code was the basis for advertising acceptance decisions at all major networks and many of the larger stations (Linton 1987; Maddox and Zanot 1984). An advertiser wishing to reach those audiences generally chose to follow the code, with the only alternative choice of incurring the expense and possible public relations headache of making two sets of commercials for code and noncode stations.

However, the Justice Department sued the NAB under antitrust laws, claiming that code sections recommending limits on numbers of commercials per hour artificially increased the demand for time, limited its supply and, thus, acted to restrain trade by setting a monopoly price. The NAB responded in 1982 by suspension of all code activities, including those that reviewed commercials for questions of taste and potential audience deception that were not part of the original complaint (Linton 1987).

When the NAB dropped the code authority and its procedures, the three major broadcast networks presented written codes that they would follow. the three similar codes incorporated many aspects from the NAB code (Maddox and Zanot 1984) and have been seen to carry an influence akin to that previously held by the NAB. (1) However, while network guidelines and the now defunct NAB code have served as examples of effective regulation, their current impact on individual stations remains uncertain. NBC, CBS, and ABC made extensive cuts in their clearance departments in 1988 (Gordon 1988; Henry 1988). In addition, the rapid increase of new independent (i.e., nonnetwork affiliated) stations that have gone on the air since the NAB code's suspension, plus the growing number of cable options, indicate that the code might not have retained the audience clout and advertiser influence even if it had remained extant.

These changes in the broadcast advertising landscape make clearance decisions more fragmented and diverse, which, in turn, can mean that consumer protection concerns can have less influence on station managers. For example, while many people involved in comparable areas of cable television come from broadcast backgrounds, Hayes and Rotfeld (1988) found that each cable network has its own priorities, with the primary concern the fit between the advertising and programs that might run on the network. Following that basic concern in importance, the networks addressed their attention toward production values, and then, whether the style of presentation might offend their target viewing audience. Most cable networks usually do not ask for substantiation of claims nor do they test the products themselves unless the advertising strains the credulity of clearance officers.

Unfortunately, a dearth of detailed analysis of self-regulation via television stations' advertising clearance procedures exists. Instead, the self-regulation literature has primarily focused on clearance procedures of the three broadcast networks, ABC, CBS, and NBC (e.g., Sewell and Jennerjahn 1982), or policies of selected larger stations (e.g., Kaplan and Houlberg 1988; Linton 1987; Maddox and Zanot 1984).

A temptation might exist to over-generalize from existing information and presume that what is true for the industry leaders is true for all stations. Case examples may provide insight into consumer protection concerns of some stations (e.g., Kaplan and Houlberg 1988; Zanot 1985), but they may not provide insight into practices throughout the industry. Codes from professional associations could have some influence on proper practice (Chonko, Hunt, and Howell 1987; LaBarbera 1983), but that does not mean major media organizations' activities or trade association codes can serve as accurate summary statements of current practice. Yet the clearance process has been noted by many as "effective control," or "the most efficient tool for curbing excesses and illegality in advertising" (e.g., Colford 1987a; McGuire 1986; Oliver 1988).


The dearth of data about commercial clearance practices of stations and the local, regional, or national advertising they accept created a research goal of generating a rich base of information from a large number of television stations about their general interests, concerns, and procedures. This extensive exploratory and descriptive study intended to discover any potential factors that could play a role in television station clearance processes.

Based upon the case examples and studies of other media described above, plus other relevant studies on parallel procedures in the print media, this inquiry addressed several interrelated research questions. The presence of specific people responsible for clearance decisions, adherence to written codes and formal procedures, plus the nature of products accepted or rejected all would indicate the nature of concerns across the wide variety of stations across the country. At the core the study was directed at discovering if and how industry codes or major media activities stand as directions for other stations' practices. Accordingly, the following questions were posed:

(1) Who makes the policy and day-to-day decisions on acceptance of advertising? Does the station have a clearance officer with a specific job title or job description? Do senior television station managers have the "final say," similar to publishers of print media Rotfeld, and Gray 1987) and are generally presented as evidence of clearance job responsibilities?

(2) Is there a structured process for deciding if commercials are acceptable, or is this decided by an informal case by case activity? A related question is: Do formal written clearance guidelines exist? Written guidelines and formal structure appear tied to stronger consumer protection guideline orientations in print media (Parsons, Rotfeld, and Gray 1987) and are generally presented as evidence of such as the one applied by the NAB prior to 1982, and if so, how

(3) Do television stations follow any business or industry codes, such as the one applied by the NAB prior to 1982, and if so, how closely do they follow them? These codes are still presented as "evidence" of broadcasters' clearance concerns (Linton 1987), but the actual extent of their influence remains uncertain.

(4) What policies and practices are applied by stations in clearance decisions? Are there any norms of advertising clearance processes and practices that are common throughout the industry?

(5) Actual rejection of commercial submissions or requirements for advertisers to provide evidence that their claims are true would be direct evidence of a consumer protection orientation. Therefore, what types of products or commercial advertising styles are likely to be rejected? How readily do stations ask advertisers to prove (provide substantiation for) advertised claims?

(6) What is likelihood of stations accepting product advertising that audiences might find objectionable?

From past analysis of television network and print media practices, these factors seem to be the strongest and more direct indicators of significant and direct consumer protection responsibilities undertaken by broadcast managers.


Items addressing the above research questions, along with questions assessing demographic information, were built into a preliminary questionnnaire. The preliminary questionnaire was then discussed with several television and radio station managers. The responses and interview information revealed that station or general managers were most likely to be responsible for advertising acceptance policies, and their reponses were used to revise the pretest questionnaire. The revised questionnaire was administered to different groups of television and radio station managers, and the results were use to construct the final questionnaire.

Final questionnaires were sent to all 836 commercial television stations listed in Standard Rates and Data Service (SRDS) as of December 1986, excluding satellites (2) and other stations not directly accepting advertising. (3)

Personally addressed and signed cover letters with envelopes were sent to the station managers because they would be in the best position to either answer the questionaires or pass the material to someone who could. Followup inquiries were sent to nonrespondents three months after the first mailing.

After the followup responses were returned and preliminary data anaylsis completed, indepth interviews were conducted with general managers, corporate owners, or other people responsible for advertising acceptance policy at 55 additional stations randomly selected from a list of nonrespondents and new stations that went on the air after the compilation of the initial mailing. To check response bias, the interviews confirmed that nonresponse was, for the most part, a function either the executives' hectic schedules, or, as a few indicated in personal letters, corporate policy not to respond to any surveys. In addition, no pattern of differing clearance practices was found in the followup interviews of nonrespondents.

Several mail respondents generated additional questions and interests about the clearance process from survey comments, detailed letters, or copies of written policies and procedures. These additional issues and questions about the clearance process were addressed in the indepth interviews, and the interviews provided greater detail and nuance to the basic descriptive data supplied by the mail survey.


The Respondents

Respondents were received from 426 stations (51 percent response rate), plus those contacted in the indepth interviews. A broad mix of station organizations were represented, with 73 percent of the responses from network owned or affiliated stations and 27 percent of the responses from independent stations. The actual respondents were primarily management (55 percent), with sales coming in a distant second (16 percent). None of the other response categories had more than twelve responses.

The respondents were asked to list all the job titles involved with advertising clearance. Station managers were most involved (88 percent), followed by the sales forces (47 percent), legal counsel (37 percent), creative services (23 percent), clearance officer (21 percent), program manager (18 percent), and operations manager (5 percent). No other job title was mentioned as involved with clearance decisions by more than 5 percent of the stations. (4) These results suggest that adverstising acceptance decisions can be diffuse within organizations. The local sales force may encourage clients to conform to management concerns. Once produced, programming and creative personnel may review a spot. Senior managers may be called in to make final decisions, or ads may be referred to legal counsel.

Code Membership and Clearance Procedures

Ei ghty-five percent of the respondents claimed to be NAB members, with 97 percent of the respondents asserting that they followed the defunct code to varying degrees; 46 percent of the respondents claimed to follow either the American Advertising Federation (AAF) or Better Business Bureau's (BBB) codes to some degree (see Table 1). It is interesting to note that almost every BBB follower ascribed to the AAF code (membership overlapped except for one response). These results suggest that there are a group of "code joiners" who tend to sigh up with most codes. Interviews also found several general managers to be active in the local Better Business Bureaus and other civic organizations.

Respondents also claimed to follow the defunct NAB code more closely than either the AAF (t = 11.6, p < .01) or the BBB code (t = 9.91, p < .01). The "other" codes that were followed by television stations tended to be individual station acceptance standards. These individual standards were also followed more closely than either the AAF and BBB codes (t = 4.95, p < .01; t = 5.87, p < .01), but not the NAB code (t = 1.09, n.s.). These results suggest that the NAB code and individual station acceptance standards are probably considered more important than other advertising codes.

Unfortunately, a socially desirable response bias may have impelled many respondents to claim they follow the NAB code, when in truth they may not understand what the code says or follow it at all. Several survey respondents noted beside the various codes that they followed them "generally." In the phone interviews, executives noted that they follow the NAB code, "within reason and based on the competitive situation," yet many of these same people also noted that "no one here owns a copy of the code" or "I haven't seen a copy of it in over ten years." They may feel a need to say they follow the NAB code to show that renewed FCC regulations are not needed. As one interviewee stated with great certainty, "Many people will tell you that they closely follow the code, but it is just PR."

Fortunately, strong empirical evidence exists that this potential response bias does not extend beyond this item. Correspondence and interviews indicate that all respondents are very proud of their procedures and they would readily explain their rationale, even if they had never rejected anything. Suprisingly, despite strong variation in actual practices, many differing respondents thought their procedures were typical throughout the industry. No one exhibited the wary skepticism and distrust that might otherwise be expected with such sensitive issues once tied to very heavy-handed government involvement. While they would aver to follow the code, the actual practices described might not even be similar to its actual guidelines.

Historically, the NAB's now defunct code for good practices was not just another trade code to which members could adhere as they chose (see Boddewyn 1989; Heighton and Cunningham 1984). While similar to trade association standards for members' ethical practice (as discussed in LaBarbera 1981; 1983) and ostensibly voluntary, carrying the only direct sanction of withdrawal of permission to display the Seal of Good Practice, the guidelines had government support. The Federal Communications Commissions at one time considered station adherence to NAB guidelines as a sign of good service for licence renewal applications (Henry 1988). In addition, individual station managers did not ever have to read or actually apply the code themselves. Before 1982 the NAB provided an office, staff, and budget for screening commercial submissions on behalf of member stations (Heighton and Cunningham 1984). From this central clearing office, NAB employees interpreted code guidelines and reviewed commercials for agencies and advertisers prior to submission to stations for broacast. With the lost of the NAB code's central office, there might remain a desire to assert adherence, but that does not necessarily mean the managers understand just what that entails.

As seen in Table 1, a structured and formal ad clearance process is as likely to exist as not. Many seem to have a mix of formal decisions and case by case policy setting. However, only 46 percent of the stations had written clearance standards such that the clearance process for many stations apparently exists as a somewhat informal process that often lacks written guidelines. Stations could have rigorous clearance procedure that is communicated orally or with one person responsible for all clearance decisions (with unwritten guidelines). If clearance responsibilities are diffuse within stations, the lack of written clearance guidelines could cause the clearance procedure to be erratic or seem unimportant to lower-ranking personnel, especially sales personnel paid on commission.

Despite the great variation in clearance standards, procedures, and policies, detailed comments on letters sent with responses and phone interviews suggest that many respondents thought that their clearance practices were the industry norm. Sometimes these pronouncements gave insight into the motivations and concerns of different managers. More often, these comments and interview assertions indicated how the managers perceived (and sometimes misunderstood) both their legal and social responsibility obligations.

For example, fewer then half of the respondents had a written clearance code, but everyone noted in interviews, as several did in their supplemental survey comments, that their policies or procedures were "typical." During the phone interviews, stations having written guidelines said they were necessary to run a station after the dissolution of the NAB code authority; those that did not said that any station with a "decent" sales force never needed to have things in writing. Almost all general managers interviewed stated that they would not accept hard liquor advertising because of a mistaken belief that such broadcst ads are banned by the Federal Communications Commission (see Distilled Spirits Council 1985). A few noted that they did not accept half-hour sales programs due to FCC limitations on commercial minutes per hour, though such regulatory directives were dropped several years ago (Hayes and Rotfeld 1988).

Substantiation was requested for an average of 10 percent of the commercials submitted for broadcast but, on average, only 3 percent of these submissions were ultimately rejected (see Table 1). These results suggest that many stations do take their advertising clearance responsibilities seriously, even to the point of rejecting ads and losing revenue, but this does not mean that all stations have strong clearance standards. Six percent of the stations never requested substantiation of ad claims and 11 percent of the stations had not rejected any ads over the last six months.

Again, there seems to be wide variation in the consumer protection activities of many stations, with some expressing an obligation to carry virtually everything as long as it is in good taste. For example, a manager of one network affiliate said, "I believe in the free enterprise system...everyone should have equal access to the airwaves, and I would accept anything, depending on how much we are approached and how much time we have to sell." Another general manager asserted that, "We live in America.... It is a point of free speech. If someone has paid to have [aprogram or ad] produced, they should have a right to air it." Similarly, another station manager said, "We are not in the business of censorship."

Interviews and appended comments on some replies indicate that limited concerns for substantiation at some stations do not mean that they do not care. for some stations, most of their advertising is from local advertisers that are generally known and truted in the community in which they operate. Many other station managers simply believe that they lack the resources to spend much time on clearance activities, trusting the activities of other stations to catch false ad claims. As one station manager wrote, "We run any copy we get unless it is obviously wrong. We do not sell autographed copies of pictures of Jesus Christ, for example.... Stations smaller than the top 50 simply do not have the manpower to check out copy in advance."

To handle the problem of resource limitations, an interview with a general manager in the Northeast revealed a novel approach for checking out questionable claims. While not personally able to research product values and benefits, as a former employee at a Group W outlet in a nearby state, he knew that they carefully checked out all submissions. When in doubt, he called the standards and practices office at the other station, and they were always glad to help. Another interviewee noted that questionable medical products were sent to a nearby university for test.

Money may be the major limitation on many stations preveting ad substantiation; they are driven by a fight to remain solvent. The station manager of an admittedly very small operation wrote, "The acceptance of a not as important to us as getting any paid advertising in the first place....[We pay] very little attention to moral or academic issues of a commercial. We pay more attention to getting anything."

Influences on Clearance Standards

Unlike magazines or radio, which segment audiences by differences between vehicles, most television station audiences vary by program or time of day; accordingly, respondents strongly agree that clearance standard varied by daypart, audience, and program (Table 2). Providing more protection for certain audience groups, especially children, provides a major goal for the advertising clearance process for television stations.

Survey data suggest that advertising clearance standards were more rigorous for programming likely to be viewed by children, with primary concerns directed toward obscenity and violence, a finding also supported by written comments and phone interviews. One survey respondent wrote, "There is a special sensitivity to children's ads and family viewing times. An ad may be OK to air but only after 10 p.m. or never in kids' programming." Several respondents claimed most viewer ad complaints were for R-rated or horror movies and that ads for those movies were strictly limited to dayparts when children are not likely to be viewing, with a similar policy followed for commercials containing violence and obscenity.

This concern could logically be tied to a desire to avoid any audience reactions that might encourage viewers to go elsewhere (e.g., Goldstein 1986; Rotfeld and Parsons 1989). Many managers noted that child-related issues more readily generate viewer complaints than any other factor of the broadcast schedule. As a regulated business, even though most content-oriented restrictions have been dropped in the recent past (Heighton and Cunningham 1984), broadcasters could fear a return of such restrictions (McGuire 1986). More directly, concerns about child-oriented programming were themselves the focus of special Congressional and regulatory attention during the 1970s.

A commercial's accuracy and language seem more important than the ability of the audience to understand the content (see Table 3, "ad clarity"). The primary goal of most stations' advertising clearance policy is to protect the audience, with "not misleading the audience," "ad accuracy," "not offending the audience," "language used in an ad," and other audience protection issues being very important. Of lesser importance were concerns about ad clarity per se or offending other advertisers (Table 3). Thus, television stations are more concerned with audience protection and technical truth or accuracy than whether the audience can understand the commercial. Audience protection concerns are also more important than the opinions of other advertisers.

In addition, the product itself can influence the commercial acceptance decision, again reflecting a desire to protect the audience and to avoid potential complaints. Liquor, contraceptives, and handgun advertisements were seldom accepted by the average station. While commercials containing sexual references were deemed inappropriate by many stations, feminine hygiene product ads, comparison ads, and beer or wine ads were on average much more acceptable (see Table 4).

The acceptability of various product and service categories for the responding stations should not hold any surprises. The most readily accepted ads are for beer and wine, with the highest number of "always accepts" mentions, and strong station acceptance exists for feminine hygiene products and comparison advertising. The most rejected products were pornography and hard liquor; in addition, many blanket rejections (and few "always accepts") for contraceptives were noted.

The questionnaires were sent out before the recent attention to "safe sex" practices required in the face of the dangers of contracting AIDS. It is only in the latter half of 1988 that the country and various broadcasters were starting to see condom advertising as a tool in the battle against AIDS (Kaplan and Houlberg 1988). However, many television stations may still be unwilling to accept condom advertisements because they wish to avoid controversy (for example, see discussions in Christopher 1986; Colford 1987b; Kaplan and Houlberg 1988).

The surprises were found in the exceptions: three respondents checked that they always accept advertising with sexual references; four noted that they always accept hard liquor advertising and seven others "almost always" accept it; seven stations had little or no objection to pornography. although feminine hygiene products and comparison advertising have become accepted fixtures on major stations and networks since the early 1970s, several stations never accept them. In the interviews, a few station managers discussed at length the "unfairness" that print media may accept cigarette advertising and await the day when they, too, could carry those commercials.

Table 5 reports the responses of an open-ended question that asked for the single most common reason for ad rejection. The claims made in the ad was the most common reason for an ads' rejection, closely followed by ads in "bad taste." Sex and violence in ads were the primary reasons for rejection for 14 percent of the responses, followed by audience protection (8 percent) and the product being advertised (7 percent).

Beyond the details of the surveys, the indepth interviews revealed additional perspectives of station general managers' concerns. To many, the key word seemed to be "controversial." Management would always be consulted if questions arise about whether a commercial might be labeled as controversial. This interest in avoiding the "controversial" seemed to be driven by three basic concerns beyond compliance with the law: (1) advertising that would possess the potential to cause the station to lose loyal members of the audience, (2) advertising that would not be suited for children or be otherwise tasteless and might generate complaints, and (3) management's personal views of right and wrong.

The strong indication from interviews was that goals of management were the major determinant of the rigor and focus of advertising clearance concerns. At some stations with strong and active clearance activities, the general manager might be a long time member of the community and active in the local Better Business Bureau or the corporate owner might be self-conscious of community service obligations.

One station manager proudly asserted that, "We have lost more business than any other station in town with our demands [for] changes or qualifications in ads....[We aim to only present] what is truthful and honest and in good taste, and," making a rare admission, "sometimes we miss."

Two stations in the same region of the country, both independents in comparable markets, offer an excellent contrast on this point. The manager of one, like most who did not ask advertisers to substantiate their claims, asserted that, "No one does....We're too small to check things out, so we monitor good taste and not advertising claims." The other manager, on the other hand, when asked about station people who note they do not have the time to request substantiation, replied, "That's absurd. It has not been a time consuming problem....Seems to me that you should have some responsibility for what you put on the air and that is one of the things you should be watching."


Although advertising is the consumer's predominant source of market information, several limitations to that information exist. Of course, regulation would be unnecessary if other forces of the marketplace could make certain that the correct information was available. Yet various incentives remain for advertisers to "skirt the truth" in hopes that the actual facts of the matter will never be ascertained (Kerton and Bodell 1987). For many frequently purchased products, from aspirin and other pain remedies to dog flea shampoos to automobiles, consumers are not in the position to ascertain the veracity of claims (Kihlstrom 1984).

President Reagan's Federal Trade Commission (FTC) appointees established a policy that many believed sent a message to advertisers that the FTC would be less vigorous in its enforcement activities (Fraser 1986). Kotowitz and Mathewson (1984) reviewed relevant data and concluded at FTC hearings that in the absence of regulations on advertising veracity, the utility of advertised information is greatly reduced. The question then becomes whether, as the regulations are dropped or not enforced, another economic mechanism can substitute for these regulations. For some, the assumption that false advertising can readily be detected by consumers is extremely strong yet not realistic when viewed by the economic evidence (Ferguson 1984; Kihlstrom 1984).

Reagan's appointees as Chair of the FTC observed that self-regulation, and especially the clearance process, is a strong and viable substitute for government involvement in advertising regulation (Oliver 1988). Clearly, the media are gatekeepers and may reject advertising materials for any reason they choose (Rotzoll and Haefner 1986), and self-regulation may play an institutional role in the overall picture of advertising regulation (Boddewyn 1989). However, self-regulation may be inadequate. The mere existence of regulations has a positive effect on advertising practice, providing advertisers with a strong incentive to tell the truth. Yet, while an adequate method for consumers to punish advertisers for false advertising does not seem to exist (Ferguson 1984), those responsible for enforcing government regulations seem to have expected more from the media clearance procedures than they pragmatically can be expected to deliver (e.g., see calls for more active media screening and regulation in Marketing News 1985; Baum 1961; Hamm 1988; Hayes 1987).

In reality, the overall rates of rejection and especially requests for claim substantiation tend to run quite low, with some stations never questioning any claims by any advertisers. The focus of concern often seems to be how the taste or style of the commercials "fits" with the surrounding program environment, not if the claims are true or if the product works at all. In other words, they are more concerned about the deceptions that audiences will find on their own than the deceptions they might never discover.

What this most clearly means for government regulation policy is that neither the NAB code nor the network procedures can by themselves serve as indicators of how well the clearance process has substituted for government involvement in advertising regulation. At best, they may indicate the upper limits of such protection. Station managers do tend to express concerns for protection of the audience, but such protection is often a concern for tasteless or offensive advertising that might generate complaints, not protection from potential deception. In terms of the stations' priorities or focus, McGuire (1986) of the National Association of Broadcasters was not correct when she noted that, "Unlike other advertising media, radio and television stations, as part of a regulated industry, ensure that commercials are not deceptive" (p. NR121). One manager more accurately summarized the clearance "dilemna" when he noted, "Like the stock market, we are run by a mix of greed and fear. We want the dollars but have a fear of possible problems."

Overall, the audience protection given by television station advertising practices is so uneven that the regulatory burden should be assumed by government. With the current deregulatory environment at the Federal level, aggressive actions by state and local consumer protection groups and agencies may be necessary to protect the public from false or misleading television advertising. Despite warnings from the FTC, the National Associaton of Attorneys General is building a framework for regulation of national advertising (Rothman 1988). In addition, consumer advocacy groups are starting to bring pressure at both state and Federal levels for increased protection against deceptive and misleading advertising practices (Neiman 1988), possibly in recognition that the current incentives for media organizations to play that role adequately are currently weak to nonexistent because the stations' primary revenue source is from advertising accepted for broadcast (Hayes 1987). In fact, the strongest economic incentive is to accept as much as possible.

Although many stations take their consumer protection responsibilities seriously enough to lose advertising revenue and some have very strict guidelines, most other stations will not reject any paid commercial submissions except in the most extreme of cases either because of needs for revenue or constraints on time to check out claims. While some stations diligently attempt to protect the audience from false and misleading advertising, consumer protection seems to be, at best, a minor concern at others.

(1)For example, while NAB restrictions and subsequent network concerns are often noted as having virtually prevented product-in-use displays for lingerie, live models wearing brassieres came to television when the networks decided to allow such displays (sloan 1987).

(2)Statellites are stations that, while licensed as distinct stations to serve a particular area, only rebroadcast the programming and advertising content of the main outlet. These are all listed and noted in the front of the SRDS book and under the individual station listings.

(3)Several commercially licensed stations use their air time solely for the broadcast of religious or other noncommercial, nonadvertising-supported activities.

(4)The percentages total greater than 100 percent because the stations were asked to list all personnel involved in the clearance process.


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Herbert J. Rotfeld is an Associate Professor of Marketing and an Adjunct Professor of Communication at Auburn University, Auburn, AL. Patrick R. PArsons is an Assistant Professor of Communications at The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA. Avery M. Abernethy is an Assistant Professor of Marketing at Auburn University, Auburn, AL, John V. Pavlik is the Associate Director for Research and Technology Studies, Gannett Center for Media Studies, Columbia University, New York, NY.

The authors wish to thank Kim Rotzoll for his comments on earlier drafts of the manufscript. Funding for this study came from special allocations from The Pennsylvania State University School of Communications and Auburn University Department of Marketing and Transportation.
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Author:Rotfeld, Herbert J.; Parsons, Patrick R.; Abernethy, Avery M.; Pavlik, John V.
Publication:Journal of Consumer Affairs
Date:Dec 22, 1990
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