What Would FCC Say About The Corvette


During an interview of Chris Christie on the monthly New Jersey 101.5 “Ask the Governor” program, the governor jokes that there should be “some love” for the radio news host after the host states that he is not paid much money for interviewing the governor. The governor then on the air asks the show’s sponsor, an auto dealer, to provide the news host with a free car. A caller suggests that it be a Corvette.  Christie adds that the color should be dark blue.

The president of the auto dealer shows up at the station to personally deliver a dark blue Corvette to the radio news host and posts a video of the delivery on YouTube.   The auto dealer, when asked, states that the Corvette is a temporary loaner and will be returned at the end of the month.

What are the FCC sponsorship identification rule ramifications of this?  Is there an issue with an on-air guest encouraging a sponsor to effectively pay more for its sponsorship by providing a loaner car?

It needs to be noted that I have for many years represented and served on the board of the New Jersey Broadcasters Association.  I do not represent New Jersey 101.5 but the radio group is a member of the NJBA.  Also, I am not commenting upon the journalistic aspects of this story.  I will leave that to others although I caution academics that they should listen to the program itself prior to making any broad pronouncements as the show may be as much entertainment as it is journalism.

The story as we now know it does not appear to raise any FCC sponsorship identification issues.
There was clearly a sponsorship ID. It was revealed on the air that not only was the auto dealer the sponsor of the “Ask the Governor” show but the entire exchange of the intention to provide the news host with a car was broadcast on the air.

The news host is promoting the auto dealer with the appropriate sponsorship identification in exchange for the car.  In the minds of the reasonable listener, there is no question from the on air events that the mention of the auto dealership was in exchange for consideration.

Here, a shrewd radio advertiser took advantage of its prominent position as the sponsor of a high-profile radio program and promoted the heck out of its dealership and flagship vehicle, a dark blue Corvette.   The stunt made for a great news story as well as entertaining radio programming.


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