Alt Title

The FTC and models of competitive speech

Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Brod, Donald

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Journalism


United States. Federal Trade Commission; Comparison advertising--United States


This study presents a model of commercial speech with which to more clearly analyse and evaluate the past, present and future activity of the Federal Trade Commission and its regulation of commercial information. The model consists of a series of flow charts with appropriate variations. It is called a model of "competitive speech" and its various elements are analogous to parts of a basic communications model. Thus, the model includes businesses (as speakers of the commercial message), consumers (as audience of the commercial message), commercial information (advertising, plus all other representations of products), feedback (product purchase) and, where appropriate, the message medium itself. In addition, the model includes the Federal Trade Commission as an agency which manipulates and modifies the impact of commercial messages. A primary assumption in constructing this model is that the manipulation of commercial information has been a central function of the FTC and that the agency has been instrumental in developing the competitive speech system. Within this system, the commission has attempted to Improve the quality and quantity of information directed to consumers. Without adequate information, consumers cannot make effective use of their financial resources or tell businesses, by their purchases, how to improve their products. With sufficient relevant information, consumers have power in the marketplace and can encourage more effective competition among businesses. Using the competitive speech model, the study analyses the primary types of FTC intervention to show the development of agency activity. Examined in separate chapters are the FTC's attempts l) to prevent deception in commercial speech, 2) to attack barriers to commercial speech, 3) to address the problems of special consumer audiences, and 4) to examine the effects of the media on commercial speech messages. Besides clarifying FTC activity, use of the model suggests several trends in the evolution of FTC intervention: 1) an increasing sophistication in the forms of agency intervention, 2) a growing emphasis on increasing the amount of commercial information to the consumer; and 3) more and more attempts by the agency to take into account all aspects of the communications system, not Just the message or message speaker. While an anti-regulatory mood prevails at the time of this writing, any renewed consumer impetus could result in an extention of the trends outlined in this study. These would include increased emphasis on the problems of particular consumer audiences (with such audiences even more precisely defined), the attempt to mandate more information directed to consumers, both from businesses and non-business sources, and rule-making which impacts upon all portions of the communications model: both media and consumers, as well as the speakers of commercial messages.


Includes bibliographical references.||Includes illustrations.


v, 105 pages




Northern Illinois University

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