As promised, KLAS-TV has filed a response at the FCC strongly denying allegations it covered an auto dealer liquidation sale in its newscast in exchange for an ad flight from the dealership.
The station says its June 8 story was "not provided as a condition of an advertising buy or otherwise broadcast in exchange for consideration," and as a result was not in violation of the FCC's sponsorship identification rules. KLAS says the allegation, made by competitor Valley Broadcasting-owned KVBC TV Las Vegas in a complaint to the FCC last month, "leaps to unsupported and erroneous conclusions" based on no actual knowledge, and is an attempt to embarrass competitors to "enhance [KVBC's] position in the local market."
The station did say it had been pressured by the ad agency to run a news story on the dealership in exchange for coverage of the sale, but had told the advertiser they would not. The station's VP of Sales, Linda Bonnici, did tell the FCC that she had subsequently passed along the contact information for the dealer's owner to the news department since he had said he would be willing to be interviewed "if the news department determined to include a story on the closing of a dealership as part of the station's ongoing coverage of the financial problems facing automobile manufacturers."
KLAS GM Emily Nielson told B&C emphatically that the allegations were baseless when the FCC complaint by KVBC was made public Oct. 9, and attested to that again in a sworn statement in the filing.
KVBC TV has asked the FCC to investigate three of its competitors, including KLAS, alleging they all agreed to supply news coverage as part of an ad buy but did not disclose that per FCC rules.
Auto dealers are one of local stations', and particularly local news', largest advertisers.
In the complaint, KVBC alleged that back in May and June, when a local Dodge dealer, United Dodge Chrysler Jeep, was advertising liquidation sales related to the closing of dealership, network affiliate competitors KLAS (CBS), KTNV (ABC) and KVVU (Fox) inserted ads that looked like interviews into their newscasts--paid for by United--without any notification to viewers that they were paid placements.
KLAS argues that it was simply covering a news story of obvious importance, and includes a sworn statement from News Director Ron Comings that decisions about the content of news stories "are made solely by me and my staff."