Watchdog group tags KHON for airing General Mills video release
MEDIA watchdogs are renewing their criticism of video news releases, with Honolulu's KHON-TV the latest station to be "busted" by the Center for Media Democracy.
VNRs, as they are called, are ready-to-air stories on video, prepared to appear as if they are news stories -- but they are paid for by a corporation or a government agency, and star a company publicist or actor posing as a reporter.
The Center for Media and Democracy statement blasts 46 television stations across the U.S. for airing corporate VNRs within newscasts, with little or no disclosure.
It accused KHON of airing a "complete and uncut VNR from General Mills that was highly promotional of the Betty Crocker Brand," said Diane Farsetta, senior researcher and report co-author.
The Center's online story condemning KHON does not include a current statement from KHON about the incident.
The media and marketing agency that prepared the feature, New York-based Medialink Worldwide Inc., fed it to KHON and untold other stations and networks through a video feed service.
The feature, titled "History of the Jack O' Lantern," aired during the morning news Oct. 24, confirmed KHON News Director Lori Silva.
A morning show producer, filling in for someone on vacation, was on duty the morning the story came in. The VNR arrived as part of a national feed and "he didn't realize this was a video news release," she said. "If he had realized it ... he would not have used it."
"It was an honest mistake," she said.
The VNR was a segment about pumpkins that encouraged viewers to view the Betty Crocker Web site for recipes, and showed screen shots of the site.
The VNR ran only during the morning show; nevertheless, the producer got a talking to, Silva said.
The station has guidelines for airing stories or video that come in from other sources. For instance, if Kamehameha Schools has a groundbreaking on a neighbor island and sends KHON video footage to use during reporting of the story. In such a case, the station would make it clear at the beginning of the story that Kamehameha Schools sent the video, she said.
In August, the Federal Communications Commission sent letters to the owners of 77 television stations inquiring about alleged use of VNRs, following a previous study conducted by the Center for Media and Democracy.
The letters asked station managers for information regarding agreements between the stations and creators of the VNRs -- and whether any "consideration" was given to the stations in exchange for airing the video packages, according to an Associated Press story at that time.
None of the August mailings were about Hawaii stations.
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