The Blending of Television News and Advertising
News anchoring is a professional discipline that should be handled skillfully. Lately, the field has experienced the emergence of unregulated actions by employers who use news castors to advertise commercials alongside news. This subject may assume various ethical dimensions depending on one’s perspective. However, the practice where news anchors are not consulted is unethical and requires urgent attention from all responsible stakeholders (Neher & Sandin, 2017). A peculiarity should be placed between doing commercials and newscasting. In case the newsroom needs to post a commercial, a break should be introduced, and the viewers are taken to a new frame to view it: the advertisement. The commercial and newscasting should also be distinguished as separate professions with each being carried within its domains according to the contract signed between the advertiser, newsroom, and the commercial company. Therefore, seeking advertisement help from a news anchor is unethical, a violation of professionalism, a violation of the anchor’s individuality or autonomy and a desecration of the news casting regulations.
The case study involves a paper published by Jill Johnson Keeney in FineLine: The Newsletter On Journalism Ethics, vol. 1, no. 1 on April 1989 page 3. The article addresses the use of news anchors to advertise for companies by blending television news and advertisement. Paper cites the advertisement of Kroger kits to the viewers against the wish of the newscasters. The newscasters receive phrases such as “Go to Kroger and pick up a test kit, then send it to Humana Hospital University to get the results.” This is an advertisement, and the anchors have to mention it at some point as they read the news (Keeney, 2018). The assumption is that the news castors should be willing to participate since it is imitative to help the society in seeking better healthcare. The management expects to gain more viewers and assumes that through this the news castor will be idolized by the society as a person involved in the wellbeing of the community (Neher & Sandin, 2017).
News anchors are professionals who have specialized in newscasting, and their area of professionalism is to be respected (Brown, 2011). Involving a newscaster in the advertisement would be a violation of professionalism especially when the news castor’s consent is not sought. The payment rates for the newscasters and advertisement are different especially when a news castor is expected to conduct a commercial advertisement like the advertisement for Kroger kits. Therefore, the use of the news castors is a shortcut to avert the higher costs expected in case an official advertisement was aired. By making assumptions and allowing the benefits of popularity to shadow the real issues at play such as the professionalism and the correct charges for an advertisement, the management places the interest of the newsroom above those of the news castor as a professional and shows disrespect and overload the newscaster. The lines of professionalism should be separated and the news castors allowed performing their job description unless both parties agreed otherwise (Neher & Sandin, 2017).
By involving news castors into programs that require an advertisement of a particular product against the terms agreed in the signing of the work contract, the manager or the person involved, is working in violation of the work contract. The work contract should be treated as a legally binding document, which must be respected at all, levels of work (Quinn, 2007). This not only demonstrates a dehumanizing act, by using another as a tool to make a profit but also spoils the free and motivating environment in which the newscasters can work with great enthusiasm. The news anchor begins to view their employer as a tyrant, and this act opens other possibilities of exploitation in the future.
If the newscaster has to take up the role of advertising, the company or product being advised should enter into a contract with the new management. They should have the full knowledge the newscasters involved in the advertisement program or the entire team involved in casting the news at various hours. With such an arrangement, they will understand their actions, whom, and the benefits they receive (Neher & Sandin, 2017). This will ensure that the newscasters are not exploited as they work per hour or work according to the payment terms agreed upon in the work contract. The contractual arrangement should be observed at all levels as a guide to prevent the employer from exploiting the employee.
As individual anchors, the newscasters possess an individuality that the managers or companies wishing to advertise should not assume (Waisbord, 2013). One person may view the matter as a benefit done to the entire society and promotion of the newsroom. Nonetheless, the act of organizing advertisement without the knowledge of the news castor to air the information is an assumption of the belief the news castor on that particular subject. They should not be engaged in activities that conflict their ethical principles, religion, or any belief in what is just or unjust (Smith, 2011). As much as the newscaster is working for a particular newsroom, he should not be merged with the organization because they are separate entities. Whereas the newsroom may continue with its work, the newscaster can resign, retire, are promoted or abandon his position and have a different life to live. The newsroom should therefore not use the anchor in a way that his afterlife will be impacted by the negative public image created while working at the newsroom or a condemned conscience after promoting a particular product or service.
Coercing a newscaster to promote a product is synonymous to deciding on their behalf on what he believes to be the right decision. For example, a scenario may occur where the product advertised is faulty, causes some problem, or the viewers of the program are exploited (Neher & Sandin, 2017). The decision will affect the newsroom and the anchor involved. Therefore, the anchor deserves the right and privileges to decide whether to participate in an advertising program and live with the results associated with the decision as opposed someone else deciding for them.
The Interest of the Public
Just as they are important stakeholders, the public should be protected alongside those of the newscaster through screening of news released. The news should be complete especially where the news involves serious information that may warrant crucial decisions such as the case of economic crisis, security, and health (Barkin, 2016). Correct and accurate information is the public’s right that should not be manipulated at the whim of a few business minds intending to benefit the society through dubious strategies. The use of short segments inserted alongside news anchorage to advertise medicines or kits does not provide all details that will help the audience to comprehend why they need the items that are being advertised. Moreover, the advertisement might be lacking in crucial details such as the risks, costs, or who should purchase them.
For example, the one used in the case study recommends kits form Kroger without indicating its use, costs and who should purchase them. The language used may be ambiguously understandable to medics. The issue becomes more important when the news castor has to market drugs that are bought over the counter. Such drugs have little or no guidelines given that they are administered in the absence of a qualified physician. The audience may be misguided, and this will endanger the health of the patient. Thus, it is important to separate news anchorage from advertisement as far as the church is separated from the state (Neher & Sandin, 2017). Commercial products should not be combined with newscasting whether they involve medical or non-medical information, for the sake of the audience.
Combining advertisements and news without the consent of the newscasters is a violation of work ethics as it overlooks the professionalism, autonomy to decide what to participate in, violation of work contract, and the ethical guidelines established to guide the operation of the newsroom and employer-employee relationship. The subject should be considered well because it is becoming common. If left unchecked, it will become the common thing where commercials hijack newscasting to air their products in the pretext of benefiting the society and the newscaster. As pointed out, this sign of goodwill may turn out to be destructive. The subject itself is an infringement of one’s conscience by deciding for the news castor what is good and using them as a vessel to get it to the public whereas the product owners do not take any claim for the advertisement.
Barkin, S. M. (2016). American television news: The media marketplace and the public interest: the media marketplace and the public interest. New York, NY: Routledge.
Brown, F. (Ed.). (2011). Journalism ethics: A casebook of professional conduct for news media. New York, NY: Marion Street Press.
Keeney, J., J. (2018). The blending of television news and advertising. Retrieved from http://mediaschool.indiana.edu/research-2/ethics-case-studies/public-service-or-news-mercials/
Neher, W & Sandin, P. (2017). Communicating ethically: Character, duties, consequences, and relationships. New York, NY: Taylor & Francis.
Quinn, F. (2007). Law for Journalists. New York, NY: Pearson Education.
Smith, R. (2011). Ethics in journalism. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons.
Waisbord, S. (2013). Reinventing professionalism: Journalism and news in a global perspective. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons.