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Thursday, July 19, 2007

Advertising Creeps Into the News On Your Teevee

In previous posts about our junk culture and about the way lying is consequence-free in today's media, I mentioned the toxic influence of giant corporations on American society.

Yesterday in a small Oregon publication, a bombshell was dropped: Corporations are sneaking advertising into the news itself.

The barrier between news content and advertising in broadcast television may be crumbling.

According to a study recently published in the journal Electronic News, authored by two University professors and a former journalism doctoral student, there is increasing pressure from advertisers to integrate ads in newscasts, and small markets are most likely to promote advertisers during news stories.

The study was conducted over four months in 2004 and included 17 U.S. stations broadcasting early-evening news in a variety of markets. The types of "stealth advertising" studied included product placements, stories about a single business, segment sponsorship, and using a specific business as the sole example of a news story's theme.

The story goes on to say that advertisers may be concerned that Tivo-wielding consumers are fast-forwarding past their commercials, and that viewership of broadcast news is down. The solution, of course, is not to make the news better - less partisan, more factually based - to regain public interest. Of course not! The solution is to make the entire newscast one big commercial.

Television news became infotainment a long time ago, but must we really make it advertainment? Are we destined for a society as portrayed in the movie "Minority Report", where as Tom Cruise takes his late-night run, advertisements customized to his needs are projected on every wall he passes? News flash to GE and NewsCorp: We are not consumers - we are citizens, and despite your best efforts, we're awake now. We will not let you turn us into mindless zombies with credit cards.

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