A radio journalism ethics issue that often involves health care products

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A column on the website of the Radio Television Digital News Association raises questions about the widespread practice of radio news anchors reading commercials on the air. Excerpts:

“The principles of truthfulness, accuracy, objectivity and public accountability are in danger with this practice.

We are crossing the line, throwing ourselves into the position of becoming irrelevant in the eyes of the community. … Weight loss products are being pitched by the news anchor that just read the latest news from Washington. Do you see where I am going with this? Where do we draw the line? A reporter should deliver the news not discuss how to get rid of chronic heel pain. Yep. Heard that one the other day in Dallas.

News anchors and reporters should not be touting the latest miracle cream, car leasing special or weight loss hype. News is the name of the game. When we reduce the role of the anchor or reporter to the role of carnival barker, no one is served.”

I heard from one radio “personality” that his station expected anchors to not only voice such commercials – but to bring in the business. He told me the station admitted that it set anchor salaries lower, with the full expectation that the anchor would increase his income by bringing in these deals.

And, as the RTDNA column suggests, the commercials are often for health care products making unsubstantiated claims.

Caveat emptor.

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