Video News Releases — promotional videos prepared by corporations, PR firms, non-profits and governmental agencies to resemble news segments, and often run by television news shows without disclosure — have been worrying media watchdogs for a couple of years now. Some broadcasters say VNRs are just a sign of the times, while others consider running them to be outright duplicity, particularly when newscasters fail to even fact-check the information in the VNRs or, worse, imply that the segments were actually produced by a station's "journalists."
Well, a new trend in advertorial may be poised to render the use of VNRs venal by comparison. According to an article posted Wednesday on San Francisco news and culture website sfgate.com, some stations are allowing parties to wine and dine them in exchange for news segments that reflect positively on certain goods and services; in fact, some are accepting advertising dollars outright in exchange for news-program airtime.
The article found that area television station KRON allowed the tourism arm of the Australian government to bankroll its morning newscast's "Australia Week," paying for the reporters' travel, lodging and food as well as coughing up an undisclosed "advertising fee." In addition, in the newscast's 11-installment February "Spa Spectacular," each spa featured paid to be. The piece also spotlights several more instances of newstime pay-for-play in other markets, as well as various hijinks newspaper employees got up to with various sponsors and special interests.