In a rare instance of the U.S. government bringing to the Internet the kind of rules it imposes on broadcasters, the Federal Trade Commission ruled Monday that reviewers must disclose in a "clear and conspicuous" manner when they are paid, either in dollars, gifts, or services, when they write their reviews. They must also disclose if they have any "material connection" to an advertiser. The rule, which received a unanimous vote from the FTC, takes effect on Dec. 1, after which violations can be punished with $11,000 in fines. Moreover, the new rules affect celebrity endorsers who can now be held liable for any false or misleading statements they make about a product, whether they're made in a TV commercial, on a talk show, or on social networks like Twitter. In an interview with ComputerWorldmagazine, Dan Olds, an analyst with the Gabriel Consulting Group, commented, "This new policy could have big impact on the bloggers and review sites that post glowing reviews without disclosing that they have been paid to have that opinion or have received free products in exchange for their praise. ... I think that forcing them to disclose in their reviews the compensation they received for that review is important and will provide greater consumer protection." But in its report on the new FTC rules, Britain's Guardiannewspaper observed that they cover 81 pages, and it asked, "Is it possible to regulate the Internet in this way? And even if it [is] possible, would it potentially restrict other areas of online life?"


A study by the Pew Research Center's project for Excellence in Journalism has taken to task the print and broadcast media for devoting most of their coverage of the current financial crisis to the difficulties of big businesses and banks and too little to the difficulties of average Americans. The study noted that news coverage focused on three "themes" -- reviving the banking sector; debate over the stimulus package; and the bailout of the auto industry." "Conversely, subjects that are typically harder to cover, but may affect more people, received less coverage," the study said. In fact, it indicated such subjects as the impact of the crisis on Social Security and Medicare, the effect on education and health care, and even the condition of retail sales and food prices was covered in only about two percent of the stories. The Pew research took into account some 9,950 stories by TV, radio, cable, newspapers and online.


David Letterman returned to his late-night show Monday with apologies to his staff -- and especially to his wife -- over the scandal that developed last week when he revealed that he was being blackmailed by a CBS News producer who had discovered that he had been having affairs with female staff members. On Friday and Saturday, he had been zinged by other late-night hosts and by the cast of Saturday Night Live. That apparently left Craig Ferguson in a quandary, given the fact that his show is produced by Letterman's company, Worldwide Pants. During his monologue on Monday Ferguson said, "The person you work for, the person you admire and respect, is caught in an embarrassing situation," said Ferguson. "And your job is to be funny about that, whilst trying to keep your own job. ... So this is my last show." He continued later, "If we are now holding late-night talk-show hosts to the same moral accountability as we hold politicians or clergymen, I'm out, I'm gone."


Now, even advertisers in the U.K. have felt viewer outrage over comments from Fox News personality Glenn Beck. The supermarket chain Waitrose said Monday that it is pulling all its advertising off Fox News in the U.K. as a result of customer complaints about the cable news channel commentator. Beck had earlier been targeted in the U.S. over his accusation that President Obama was a "racist" who harbored "a deep-seated hatred for white people." However, Fox News had said that advertisers who objected to having their ads appear on Beck's program had agreed to have them air elsewhere on the Fox News schedule. Waitrose, however, insisting that it was responding to concerns of its customers, said it was removing all of its advertising from the channel, which is available on Sky Television, the satellite service controlled by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.