This could happen to you.

leblancA television station in Las Vegas was slammed with a $115,000 fine and three years of probation activities for airing “special reports” purporting to be news but which were actually commercials for a local car dealer. FCC Enforcement Bureau Chief Travis LeBlanc warns, “Broadcasters are not allowed to deceive the public by presenting commercial announcements or other paid programming in the guise of news or editorial comment. Transparency is especially crucial in a situation like this one, where a pseudo-news report invites viewers to rely on their perception of the station’s independence and objectivity when, in fact, the message has been bought and paid for by an undisclosed third party.”

Editor’s $0.02: So lax have we become in our observance of this rule that I hear many such ads on local radio stations throughout the country. (Another big no-no, largely disregarded: the use of sirens and other motoring warning signals in radio ads.) We may not have a long memory, but the FCC does.