The state of Oklahoma is running some ads with an Oklahoma television broadcaster. Nothing unusual about that – but does the arrangement spill over into news coverage? Some in are concerned that the campaign, which also includes affiliated radio stations may compromise the separation between a media company’s journalism and sales departments.
Griffin Communications has CBS affiliates in the state’s two largest markets, including KWTV in Oklahoma City and KOTV in Tulsa.
According to the Tulsa World, Griffin has a contract to promote Insure Oklahoma, a state-subsidized health program. A former Griffin news reporter, several years retired, is the key spokesperson in the campaign, and spots run during the news.
A local media professor notes only that the situation creates the “potential” for abuse, and Griffin execs have stated firmly that the news is not for sale. Tulsa World describes the spots as running seamlessly with the news, but at the same time reports that a news anchor usually follows the segment noting that the segment was sponsored by parent Griffin and the Oklahoma Health Care Authority.
The professor seemed to think this disclosure was sufficient to satisfy FCC requirements.
RBR/TVBR observation: It’s one thing to put a specific brand of soda or coffee on the news desk during a broadcast, which we find to be essentially harmless. It’s another thing again to run ads disguised as news stories. It’s important to make sure any such material during a newscast is clearly separated from straight news coverage.