Democrats Smell a Rat in Republicans’ Medicare Ad; FCC Is Asked to Investigate

Associated Press

The FCC is reviewing a complaint about a Republican ad that subtly flashes the word “rats” across the screen as it criticizes Al Gore’s Medicare plan.

The ad already is coming off the air, but Democratic Sens. Ron Wyden of Oregon and John B. Breaux of Louisiana on Wednesday wrote the Federal Communications Commission, asking for an investigation.

“We have reason to believe that broadcasters are airing television advertisements that contain subliminal messages in violation of the public interest,” Wyden and Breaux wrote.

In 1974, the FCC adopted a policy that calls subliminal advertising contrary to the public interest.


The FCC will review the complaint and decide whether to investigate, an agency spokesman said.

The FCC has no power over the Republican National Committee, which aired the ad for more than two weeks, or any political campaign. But it does control the licenses of TV stations that air the ad. Stations are not supposed to air material that is not in the public interest.

In the ad, words flash on the screen to echo the announcer’s message: “The Gore prescription plan: Bureaucrats decide.”

Just as the announcer says “bureaucrats decide,” the word “rats,” in capital letters, fills the screen.