Ethical issues seem to be a recurring theme for Channel 5, and today the Times' James Rainey takes on the paper's sister station over a three-part puff series on the "dramatic turnaround" at Ford Motor Co. Channel 5 called the series "The View From the Driver's Seat," and included a disclaimer at the end of its newscasts saying Ford had paid a "sponsorship fee" to KTLA "in connection" with the coverage. The night after the last part ran, KTLA also sold Ford an hour of air time for a "documentary" that Ford produced about itself. After Rainey asked questions, KTLA General Manager Don Corsini said the disclaimers on his nightly news show actually referred to the later Ford advertorial. "Ford did not pay KTLA to air the news series," he told Rainey.
The columnist's take:
Indeed, "The View From the Driver's Seat" looked every bit like breathless promotion. Anchor Micah Ohlman piloted what he dubbed the "exclusive three-part series." The segments depicted Ford as fighting back gamely against the economic downturn and industry challenges by producing a boffo line of cars and trucks.
KTLA interspersed riffs from Ford West Coast executive Hal Dewsnap with plenty of pretty pictures of the automakers' gleaming new fleet, video supplied by Ford, from the same documentary the station aired last Saturday....
wouldn't a real news story offer some comparison to other car makers? How about describing how Ford got in a hole in the first place? A simple reading of the wire services would tell you Ford has a few other challenges -- not the least trying to operate under a whopping $34.3 billion in debt.
KTLA, though, didn't let any such context clutter up this shiny bauble.
"This just shows you how far TV news has fallen," Pete Noyes, the longtime L.A. news producer, told Rainey.
* Rainey tweets: "I'm getting some nice thank yous this morning from KTLA employees who say they don't want their station selling 'news' time to advertisers."