In a letter to the FCC, Ralph Nader, the world's most visible consumer advocate, has requested an investigation into the advertising practices of General Motors with regard to several radio personalities.

The letter from Nader was prompted by an Automotive News article entitled, "Puff Piece. Rush Limbaugh is one of the radio personalities GM is working with to talk up its vehicles" (sub. req.). The article goes on to detail how the General has supplied DJs, broadcasters and Limbaugh with test vehicles, private meetings and VIP tours of GM facilities.

Nader contests that this type of promotion may be against FCC laws requiring disclosure of payments for endorsements. Some choice quotes from Limbaugh include, "GM has a ton of momentum," and, "GM cars and trucks have never been better."

Whether or not an investigation will take place is up to the FCC, but General Motors made it clear in a statement that everything they've done with broadcasters is above board and meets with the FCC's regulations.

You can read Ralph Nader's letter in full by following the jump.

[Source: Automotive News – Sub. Req., Nader.org]


PRESS RELEASE

Nader letter to FCC

The following is a letter from Ralph Nader to the FCC (appendices to the letter are available at Nader.Org):

Dear Ms. Monteith:

I am writing to ask that Federal Communications Commission (FCC) conduct an investigation of the activities of certain hosts of radio shows. (See Appendix One -- a list of radio hosts participating in the General Motors promotion effort).

On August 6, 2007, Automotive News, the leading trade journal for the automotive industry, reported that GM is wooing radio stars. Its article led with a headline: "Puff Piece. Rush Limbaugh is one of the radio personalities GM is working with to talk up its vehicles." (See Appendix Two -- Automotive News article: General Motors Payola GM woos the radio stars Rush, Whoopi and others plug vehicles on the air, by Mary Connelly.)

Automotive News Reporter Mary Connelly writes that "GM says it doesn't pay the stars directly for their endorsements, although it advertises on their shows. It gives them new GM cars and trucks to drive for two weeks each month. The company also invites the celebrities to Detroit for private meetings with top executives and VIP tours of GM facilities. The attention is paying off."

The article notes that Rush Limbaugh said, "GM has a ton of momentum," he exhaled, "GM cars and trucks have never been better."

But Rush Limbaugh doesn't stop there. He waxes further: "They [GM] are working hard and they are thinking smart. Believe in General Motors, folks." (See Appendix Three -- list of stations carrying the Rush Limbaugh Show.)

Dallas disc jockey Chris Ryan, might as well have been crossing over to his advertising buddies and doing the ad. But this was not ad time. This was program time when he declared: "Have you seen all the cool things that's going on at GM? I have. If you are thinking about a new car, you got to look at GM."

Section 47 U.S.C. section 317, requires broadcasters to disclose to their listeners or viewers if matter has been aired in exchange for money, services or other valuable consideration.

Section 47 U.S.C. section 508, requires that, when anyone provides or promises to provide money, services or other consideration to someone to include program matter in a broadcast, that fact must be disclosed in advance of the broadcast, ultimately to the station over which the matter is to be aired.

Based on this article, it appears that content of the broadcasts may violate the sponsorship identification rules.

In any event, the FCC needs to investigate. Secretary of Commerce, Herbert Hoover, later to become President in the nineteen twenties, called radio "a public trust." He believed the public airwaves, being owned by the people, should convey no advertisements whatsoever.

I look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

Ralph Nader