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URL 28: My Letter to Midas Mufflers Dated September 12, 1971

URL 28: My Letter to Midas Mufflers Dated September 12, 1971 (In Chapter 35, page 166) (805 words) (30,094 cum words)

In the August 7, 1972, edition of Advertising Age (pp. 2, 73), your firm was mentioned in connection with clipping of network commercials on KLAS-TV in Las Vegas, Nevada. The story also mentioned me, since I am the college professor who made the initial complaint to the FCC.

Several factual items were wrong in the story, and much was left out, including the facts that two of the three network TV stations put pressure on the University of Nevada, where I then worked to fire me (the pressure worked), that my home was broken into and copies of the original study I made on unethical broadcasting practices in Las Vegas was missing, and that after I was forced to leave the University of Nevada, one of the station’s lawyers began snooping into my background at the University campus.

I was away in Australia for the entire summer as a visiting professor of marketing at the University of Melbourne, and I just found out about the Advertising Age story. No other advertiser was mentioned in the story, and I haven’t been keeping up with the FCC charges since I’ve been out of the country, and I don’t know how many advertisers have been defrauded by the stations, if any. My sources in Las Vegas (some idealistic employees of some of the network stations there) tell me, however, that hundreds of advertisers have been charged for commercials that never appeared, and that this has been done over a period of many years. You’re just one of them. John Revitt, the author of the story, mentioned an intriguing possibility of an advertiser seeking criminal prosecution on the basis that the stations were engaged in mail fraud.

I’m very interested in improving broadcasting ethics, and I have good reason to believe that clipping / time-stealing and double-billing exists at many other stations throughout the nation, although probably not so blatantly as it existed in Las Vegas, where it was not uncommon for stations to return to the network feed several seconds or several minutes late (thus forcing the viewer to miss much of the dialogue) in order to run the extra commercials.

Because of my interest in improving broadcasting ethics, and because almost no publicity concerning the fines has been given except in trade journals, I’d like to see the general American public learn about what clipping and double-billing is. If they learned what it is, there would be more complaints to the FCC, and this practice might be stopped. The advertiser would begin getting his full value for his TV commercials. As the FCC was quoted in the Ad Age article, “We don’t know exactly why we’re having more of these cases than in the past, but we are.”

I think that if a socially conscious advertiser like Midas were to initiate criminal charges against the Las Vegas stations, then the publicity would be forthcoming that has been lacking in the past. Nobody, it seems, wants to touch the story, possibly because it involves the very powerful communications media itself. I feel, personally, that the media does not want to run any story that puts itself in a bad light—not even media that compete with TV (such as magazines) which would stand to benefit in increased advertising revenue, perhaps from the decline of the TV medium.

I’m quite interested in hearing from you regarding this matter. If you are interested in the complete story that led up to my complaints to the FCC, including their initial refusal to investigate (they only made the investigation because a House Subcommittee headed by Harley Staggers was prepared to investigate if they did not), and the unbelievable pressure that was put on me by the stations and by the University of Nevada to “lay off.” I’ll be glad to send you full details.

I’d certainly like to hear from you regarding how you feel about initiating criminal proceedings To protect myself legally, I want to make sure that this is understood—nothing I have said in this letter should be construed as my asking you to prosecute somebody in a court of law. I am a completely disinterested party regarding whether or not any Las Vegas TV station sent you or your ad agency invoices that differed in 21 cases from the times the commercials actually were broadcast (according to the Ad Age story). I have nothing to gain or lose whether you go to court or not. I do believe, however, that such a court case would call American’s attention to what might be a widespread practice.

Since I’d like broadcasting ethics to be improved, and since I’m interested in improving advertising effectiveness (the subject of my Ph.D. dissertation), I think that such a court case would serve a worthwhile purpose. I’ll be looking forward to hearing from you soon.

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