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A page one story in the Wall St Journal discusses how paid spokespeople are regularly used on news and features shows, without disclosing their affiliations to the audience, or, often, to the show’s producers. The article makes it sound like many of the stations are in the dark about this widespread practice, and maybe some are. But that wasn’t my experience during 20 years in PR.
A “don’t ask, don’t tell” atmosphere prevails. Since both sides have something to gain from the arrangement, concerns about it have been swept under the rug. But I bet the Journal article will propel changes.
Over the years, on behalf of clients, I’ve produced segments and video news releases that have appeared on national news and feature shows. To the best of my knowledge, no station I worked with ever showed a disclaimer about the segments or the VNRs.
I’ve always thought that broadcasters should be legally required to identify:
_ paid spokespeople,
_ video news releases not produced by the station
_ paid product placements
Companies and PR agencies are unlikely to volunteer the information unless they’re asked.
Frankly, I’m sure stations would still welcome the material because the vast majority simply don’t have the budget to produce all of their own feature segments.

The segments often are broadcast live via satellite from a trade event or air during regular news programming in a way that’s indistinguishable from the rest of the show.
Typically, the article notes, spokesperson James Oppenheim gets a $12,500 fee per company, while Corey Greenberg, the “Today” show’s main tech-product reviewer, is said to charge $15,000 per tour.
There seem to be a lot of Oppenheim family members acting as toy guides, according to the website.
Amazon says Oppenheim Toy Portfolio, 2005: The Best Toys, Books, Videos, Music & Software for Kids is by Joanne Oppenheim, Stephanie Oppenheim, James Oppenheim (Editor)
The site touts the objectivity of The Oppenheim Toy Portfolio newsletter as “Ad-free. Unlike many organizations that give awards, The Oppenheim Toy Portfolio does not charge entry fees and remains ad-free to assure editorial integrity.”
The Eyewitness News site in Lincoln, NE says “Katlean de Monchy who’s included in the Journal article, keeps America in the know about the new. Katlean is known as the Nextpert(TM) and considered the leading trend translator on television.” The fact that she’s a spokesperson paid by clients isn’t mentioned.
Greenberg has also appeared CNBC’s “The Wall Street Journal Report with Maria Bartiromo” to plug products made by Apple Computer and Creative Technology— companies that have paid him in the past, the Journal reports. A CNBC spokesperson blames him for not disclosing his clients.
The article points out “While most satellite media tours take place on local television, the biggest prize is a mention on a national television show. The publicity value of a brief “Today” appearance is estimated at about $250,000, according to Multivision Inc., a company that tracks TV broadcasts. (Boy, I should charge more when I get clients on Today and GMA!)
Multivision bases its estimate on ad rates, audience size and other factors. “Today” is watched by an average of 6.1 million people each weekday. A mention on a local news show is valued at anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, depending on audience size.”