As was reported in the Las Vegas Sun, product plugs in the form of cups of McDonald’s iced coffee started residing on the anchor desk in late June.
“News is news and sales is sales,” Steuart said. “We pursue news vigorously no matter where it leads, even if it’s up to a client’s doorstep.”
Steuart added that the station is upfront about the McDonald’s sponsorship, with on-air billboards informing the viewer that the quick-service restaurant sponsors the program. (The product plugs only air after 7 a.m., when Fox 5 News: Live in Las Vegas shifts to lighter fare.)
“Sponsorships have been part of news for a long, long time,” she said. “People need to give viewers a little more credit.”
Steuart said no viewers have complained about seeing the McDonald’s plugs during the news, adding that the station has a healthy relationship with product integration, as Meredith programs More and Better both feature sponsors’ products and services.
The Sun pointed out that the McDonald’s cups were not actual cups of coffee. Steuart said “prop cups” are used because, unlike real cups of coffee, the props don’t spill.
Barbara Cochran, president of the Radio-Television News Directors Association, said that the placement did not violate RTNDA guidelines, which say that an advertiser should have no influence over news content. " AS I understand it, there is not evidence or allegation that it has [in this case]." But she added that the organization is rethinking the guidelines in light of the growth of product placement generally.