Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Politics and Product Placement

Arushi Sharma

According to the USA Today article, Education Dept. paid commentator to promote law,” in order to build support among black families for the No Child Left Behind law, the Bush administration paid Armstrong Williams, a prominent black pundit and host of The Right Side, $240,000 to promote the law on his TV show and urge other journalists to do the same. Williams claimed he wanted to do it because it was something he believed in.

Cases such as this require future journalists to question the ethical repercussions that product placement/ endorsement has on the news media. Product placement has saturated Hollywood, the music industry and at this point, even politics. But when product placement, or in this case, product endorsement, infiltrates the news media to the extent that it starts to influence the way news agencies and pundits make decisions, it will unquestionably lead to the death of objectivity.

In addition, the article pointed out that the contract Williams signed required him to regularly comment on NCLB during the course of the broadcast and to interview Education Secretary Rod Paige for TV and radio spots that aired during the show in 2004. But according the article, Melanie Sloan of Citizens for Responsibility claims the contract may be illegal because, “Congress has prohibited propaganda,” or any sort of lobbying for programs funded by the government.

Journalists will always be forced to make decisions that require them to question the ethical parameters they are ready to break in order to make some quick money. But to maintain objectivity and one’s reliability as a journalist, product endorsement should be restricted in the news. In addition, journalists need to be open about monetary or any type of compensation they might receive in order to plug a product or campaign; readers and viewers need be informed through fair and accurate reporting.

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