Recent blurring of lines by broadcasters between news and advertising programs

National Public Radio
Tuesday, December 2, 2003

The Federal Communications Commission is looking into complaints that some local TV stations are blurring the lines between advertising and editorial content. The charge: Stations such as those in Jackson, Mississippi, and Tampa have represented paid-for infomercials as if they were part of news or public affairs programs. That's brought calls for stronger government-imposed disclaimers. Bobbie O'Brien reports.

O'BRIEN: Joanne Doroshow was invited to talk about tort reform on Sky Radio. Doroshow is the executive director of the Center for Justice and Democracy, a consumer advocacy group. Doroshow agreed to do the interview until she was told it would cost her $5,900.

Ms. JOANNE DOROSHOW (Executive Director, Center for Justice and Democracy): It's not the leading independent opinion-makers on a particular topic that are being interviewed on these programs; it's people who can pay for it.

O'BRIEN: Doroshow complained to the Federal Trade Commission. Sky Radio already runs audio disclaimers every hour and, since the FTC complaint, has promised to take additional action. CEO Holland believes the industry, and not the government, should decide the issue. Barbara Cochran, president of the Radio Television News Directors Association, agrees.

Ms. BARBARA COCHRAN (President, Radio Television News Directors Association): When I see a half an hour program on touting the benefits of Thighmaster, I know that's an infomercial. And in other instances where it might be a little murkier, then I think it's good for the broadcaster to clarify that and make sure that the viewers know what's a commercial and what's not.
For a copy of the complete article, contact CJ&D.

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