Las Vegas Sun

August 10, 2022

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Sun editorial:

A dangerous brew

Concerns raised about product placement on TV station news programs

Two cups of iced McDonald’s coffee sit prominently on the anchor’s desk of the local Fox affiliate’s morning news and entertainment program. No one ever mentions them or drinks from them — the cups are made-for-TV models.

As Abigail Goldman reported in Monday’s Las Vegas Sun, KVVU, along with stations in New York, Chicago and Seattle, has entered into agreements to place the coffee cups on camera in exchange for money. The viewers are never told there is such an agreement.

These deals have become common in movies and TV shows, and in the early days of TV it was common for news anchors to pitch the products that sponsored the shows. But as the industry grew, there became a clear and distinct separation of news from advertising.

However, the current economic conditions, along with the ebbing influence of TV news, have resulted in stations’ looking for untapped sources of revenue.

That has troubled some consumer advocacy groups that are concerned people are being deceived. It seems implicit, they rightly reason, that the news anchors are endorsing the product, with no acknowledgment of the business arrangement.

There also are concerns that such arrangements could skew news coverage. (How would a TV station with an agreement with McDonald’s cover bad news about the fast-food chain?)

The New York Times reported Tuesday that the Federal Communications Commission is considering tighter rules on how TV sponsorship is disclosed.

The whole issue boils down to credibility, and that is extremely important in an age when the lines separating news, entertainment and advertising have become blurred for too many news organizations.

Viewers shouldn’t be deceived, which is bad for business. After all, you can’t buy credibility.

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