NBC affiliate WBBH-TV Fort Myers, Fla., says it only wanted to link the
histories of local businesses to the current celebration of the network's
But in presenting $5,000 advertising "partnerships" -- in addition to
commercials, promos and a share of the NBC anniversary branding -- the station
offered in a flier "a news story on you or your family and how they have
impacted southwest Florida, which will air in the Monday-through-Friday 5 p.m.
to 6 p.m. newscast."
When asked about the ethics of such a pitch, general manager Steve Pontius
said he regretted the flier and the offer, adding that nothing like it would be
A few of the sold spots have already run, and although Pontius said the station
is embarrassed by the situation, the rest will run, as well; but, he added, with
clear separation from the news portions of the newscast. "We should have done
that from the first," he said.
The offer pretty clearly violates recent Radio-Television News Directors
Association guidelines opposing favoritism toward advertisers or content
generated by anything but "journalistic merits"
"It should be clear to all advertisers," the guidelines said, "that they have
no influence over news content."
Local Naples Daily News editor Phil Lewis called the invitation
"disturbing" and a "blurring of the line between advertising and content."