Cigarette tax ads must identify hidden sponsor, FCC says
OREGON–In late October, the Federal Communications Commission ruled that television and radio stations in Oregon that were airing advertisements in opposition to a proposed cigarette tax without identifying the Tobacco Institute as a sponsor violated federal law.
The “Fairness Matters to Oregonians Committee,” a political committee that obtained almost all of its funding from the Tobacco Institute, had been identified as the sponsor of the commercials.
In the Mass Media Bureau ruling issued to 10 radio and television stations, the FCC said it believed the Tobacco Institute was the true sponsor of the ads and that it should be so identified.
The Media Access Project, on behalf of the Committee to Support the Oregon Health Plan, filed a complaint with the FCC. MAP argued that not only did all but $20.00 of the donations raised come from the Tobacco Institute, but that the only two members of the FMOC were both registered lobbyists for R.J. Reynolds.
In response to an FCC inquiry, one of the stations replied that despite the status of the FMOC members, the Tobacco Institute had no editorial control over the campaign. The station, however, provided no evidence to support its claim.
“In these circumstances, we are not persuaded that any of the information furnished by the stations thus far is sufficient to overcome the very strong presumption that the true sponsor of the subject advertising is the Tobacco Institute,” the Mass Media Bureau ruled.
Although the ruling stated that its purpose was “advisory in nature,” it also stated that any further broadcast of the ads without proper sponsorship identification would be inconsistent with both FCC rules and federal law. (FCC Action No. DA96-1788)