August 22, 2008



by Jim Hightower

Perhaps you thought that television news programs couldn’t possibly get any cheesier, more corporate, or more driven by the big bucks of advertisers. If so, you have seriously underestimated the in-your-face cheesiness of the Fox affiliate in Las Vegas.

The morning news show on KVVU has literally given McDonald's a seat at the news desk. No, make that on the news desk. Placed in front of the news anchors are two big plastic cups of McDonald’s iced coffee, as though both anchors are so taken with the frosty drink that they bring their own to the set every morning.

Only, Jason and Monica never take a sip. They can’t, since the drinks are fake. They are a glaring product-placement advertisement paid for by the fast-food huckster, which wants the credibility of appearing to be a natural part of the “news.” Viewers are never told that the cups are an ad, and neither Fox nor McDonald’s will say how much gold exchanged hands to put the Golden Arches on the set each day.

But what if there’s a breaking news story involving the restaurant chain — like an outbreak of E.coli in the Big Macs or some mistreatment of workers? Not to worry, say station executives, because in that case the cups would be temporarily displaced from the news desk. See, and you thought there were no ethics left in journalism.

Otherwise, the corporate suits running the place see no problem with this little deceit or with the further slippage of news into the dark hole of advertising. It’s merely a “nontraditional revenue source,” says KVVU’s news director.

Lest you think this is a Las Vegas problem, McDonald’s also has similar placement deals with Fox stations in Chicago and Seattle, as well as with Univision in New York City. Maybe this advance in “newsvertisements” will make it to your town too.

For more information on Jim Hightower's work — and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown— visit www.jimhightower.com


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