In the drivers seat5/28/2000 08:00:00 PM Eastern
In local TV, car dealers are the backbone (or perhaps that should be drive train) of many ad budgets. So TV reporters may be reluctant to investigate allegations of unethical behavior by dealers. But that is just what KCBS-TV Los Angeles did. And when faced with some angry dealers threatening to drive their six-figure ad accounts off the lot, the station's general manager told them to go ahead.
He also pointed out that such action would be newsworthy in itself, and, to put it in context, would require yet another airing of the story. The results: The piece aired as reported, although the station conceded a point about tarring with too broad a brush and chose to scrap a planned airplane banner over Dodger Stadium promoting the piece; the California Department of Motor Vehicles raided at least one of the dealers cited in the story; and no ads were pulled.
Undertaking an important story that may hurt important advertisers is just the kind of thing that gives TV news a good name. In an age when the 9 p.m. sweeps miniseries is the 11 p.m. news feature, it's worth noting that stations sometimes do stories that hit with something more than a powder puff and risk the bottom line.