Multinational Monitor

MAY/JUN 2009
VOL 30 NO. 3


The Nationalization Option: Considering a Government Takeover of Citigroup
by Robert Weissman


The Wall Street Rip Off: Fees and Consequences
an interview with
John Bogle

Eyes on the Prize: Incentivizing Drug Innovation Without Monopolies
an interview with
James Love

New Directions for Government Motors
an interview with
Jerry Tucker

A BIG Idea: A Minimum Income Guarantee
an interview with
Karl Widerquist

Grassroots Power and Non-Market Economies
an interview with
Beverly Bell



Behind the Lines

Single Payer Sanity

The Front
Dying for Work - Radioactive Mining

The Lawrence Summers Memorial Award

Greed At a Glance

Commercial Alert

Names In the News


Commercial Alert

DirecTV Did Call

“Do Not Call” is a tricky concept for DirecTV. Just three years after paying a record $5.3 million penalty for violating Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Do Not Call provisions, DirecTV was again charged with violating FTC rules.

The cable company agreed in April to pay $2.31 million to settle the latest charges, which found that more than a million calls delivered prerecorded messages to consumers who had actively put themselves on DirecTV’s Do Not Call list.

According to the FTC, the calls made by DirecTV’s telemarketers contained a prerecorded message that stated, “From time to time [DirecTV] extend[s] exciting offers to our loyal customers like you, but because you are on the DirecTV Do Not Call list, we are not able to contact you for these exciting offers.” The message then asked recipients to “press one” to remove themselves from the Do Not Call list.

These calls violated the FTC’s Telemarketing Sales Rule by contacting consumers on DirecTV’s Do Not Call list and by making calls that did not connect to a live person. The calls also violated a federal court order stemming from DirecTV’s first settlement in 2005.

“What makes DirecTV’s actions especially troubling is that it is a two-time offender,” says FTC Chair Jon Leibowitz. “DirecTV violated not only the FTC’s Do Not Call Rules, but also a previous federal court order barring it from exactly this type of conduct. Simply put, we won’t tolerate firms that disregard consumers’ specific requests not to be called, and we will be especially tough on companies that ignore their obligations under prior court orders.”

Comcast also settled charges in April by paying $900,000 for violations of the FTC’s Do Not Call provisions. The FTC contends that Comcast made calls to sell cable television, Internet and telephone services to more than 900,000 consumers after those consumers specifically asked to be placed on Comcast’s Do Not Call list.

LA Times Goes South

In a move that drew heavy criticism about the blurring of editorial and advertising content, the Los Angeles Times in April ran two advertisements designed to look like articles — one on the front page.

The front page advertisement was for a new NBC show “Southland,” which is centered on a police unit in Los Angeles. The advertisement — carrying the headline “Southland’s Rookie Hero” — was written and designed to look like a news article, although it did carry the label “advertisement” and displayed NBC’s logo. The advertisement was the first time the Los Angeles Times ever ran a mock news column on its front page, although it has been running front page advertisements since 2007.

The next day, the Sunday Calendar entertainment section of the Los Angeles Times contained a four-page advertisement for the movie “The Soloist,” laid out to look like a news section. The section contained an interview with LA Times columnist Steve Lopez, who wrote the book on which the movie is based.

“You dress an ad up to look like editorial content precisely because you think it will make it more valuable,” Geneva Overholser, director of the University of Southern California’s school of journalism, told the New York Times. “Fundamentally, that’s an act of deception.”

The newspaper defended its move, saying both sections were clearly marked “advertisement” and that the editorial staff was not involved with writing the advertisements.

When the editorial staff was informed of plans for the front-page ad, about 100 employees signed a petition protesting the decision, according to Reuters.

Thumbs Down for Bravo

Further erasing the already weak boundaries between advertising and programming, Bravo is developing a line of products based on its most popular programs, such as “Real Housewives” and “Top Chef.” The brands will be promoted on air and sold on Bravo’s website.

The product lines will include $595 handbags from the brand Kooba that will appear on the show “NYC Prep,” and fashion designs created by contestants on “The Fashion Show” — sold for $150 and up.

“Literally, fashion is stepping off the runway and into consumers’ living rooms for the first time, so it’s the ultimate fan experience,” Jennifer Turner, Bravo vice president for licensing and strategic partnerships, told the New York Times.

Products from the network’s popular “Top Chef” will include themed flower arrangements by Teleflora, wines from Terlato Wines International, “Top Chef” knives from Master Cutlery, and online cooking classes conducted by “Top Chef” contestants. The products will likely be included in the program or displayed in the background.

Bravo programs are already heavily integrated with brands. Design challenges for “Project Runway” have been sponsored by Hershey’s, Levi’s and Saturn. Models on the show have their hair styled in the Tresemmé hair salon and makeup done in the L’Oréal Paris makeup room. “Top Chef” regularly has contestants use well-known brands like Swanson’s chicken broth.

— Jennifer Wedekind

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