The news this week that a station in Las Vegas was selling product placements in its newscast–a McDonald’s coffee mug on the anchor desk—transported me back to late July 1999, when salesfolk for a station in Chattanooga, Tenn., had offered to sell flattering news stories to local businesses for $15,000 a pop.
The news executives said they were unaware of the effort, and the salespeople said they were unaware that there was anything wrong with the effort.
The two cases are not exactly analogous, and the product placement isn’t even a violation of Radio-Television News Directors Association guidelines I’m told, so long as the plug does not affect news coverage. It should be, but that is another blog item.
The Las Vegas station maintains that the cup on the desk was not preventing it from following stories wherever they lead, including to the doorsteps of their advertisers.
That’s fine, but perception is sometimes nine-tenths of reality and broadcasters are best advised to emulate Caesar’s wife rather than his handmaiden.
In any event, the silver lining to this cloud is that it provided me an opportunity to revive a song parody I was inspired to create back in 1999 regarding the Chattanooga misstep. It is to the tune of Chattanooga Choo-Choo, which I know will have many scratching their heads. So, if you don’t know the original,here it is so you can sing along if you like.
Chattanooga News Crew
Hey there boss, now whaddya say
We could make the news department flatter for pay.
Bend an ear to this scheme of mine
About the top of the news and the bottom line.
Pardon me boss, I sold the Chattanooga news crew
(Yes! Yes!) For 15K
C’mon boss, whadaya say?
Can we afford, to pass on ads that use a news crew?
It just wouldn’t be fair, to leave that cash sitting there.
We’ll pen some promos at the station, give ‘em several to choose
Stick ‘em in “The PJs” leadin’ into the news
Tease it in the weather, nothing could be better
Than to have our anchor in their corporate sweater.
When we cheer some Widget Co. and make it a star
Then they’ll see our tendency to flack’s above par
Shovel in releases
We’ll be rich as Croesus
News as advertisng, here we are!
There’s gonna be, a certain party at the station
Blue suit and tie, they call him FCC guy.
He’s gonna say, “Get out your wallet, cause you crossed the line.”
And then Chattanooga news crew, won’t you please pay the fine.