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Gannett TV stations push profits and ethical limits

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That troublesomely fuzzy TV ethics line just keeps getting fuzzier.

The Star Tribune reports on Minneapolis station KARE joining a list of other Gannett-owned stations around the country that charge advertisers to talk about their products on a talk show. Advertisers will pay KARE $2,000 to $2,5000 for 5-minute segments on the show. Station news veterans will host the paid-for appearances. My University of Minnesota colleague Jane Kirtley calls this a “logical extension of the whole pernicious practice of infomercials.”

The Washington Times reports on that same Gannett trend and on an even more troublesome practice. The Times reports that WUSA in Washington charged the D.C. government as much as $100,000 a year to promote breast cancer awareness during the station’s newscasts. So here’s a station wrapping itself in the pink ribbon of breast cancer awareness while demanding a premium fee to do so.

Let me remind you: the Radio-Television News Directors Association code of ethics has clauses that dictate that professional electronic journalists should: “Not accept gifts, favors, or compensation from those who might seek to influence coverage; Determine news content solely through editorial judgment and not as the result of outside influence; Recognize that sponsorship of the news will not be used in any way to determine, restrict, or manipulate content; Refuse to allow the interests of ownership or management to influence news judgment and content inappropriately.”

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