Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Small-market TV stations more likely to air 'stealth advertising,' study says

In what researchers call an “apparent threat to the long-term credibility of television news,” 90 percent of 294 monitored newscasts included at least one instance per newscast of “stealth advertising,” which researcher Jim Upshaw calls a commercial message “cloaked in some other garment than a normal commercial.”

“Small-market stations showed more commercially influenced material” than medium- and large-market stations, reports. “Advertisers’ messages are infiltrating small-market television newscasts at about the same percentage that owners of digital video recorders are skipping the commercials.”

Upshaw, a former reporter at the NBC affiliate in Washington, D.C., is a professor of journalism at the University of Oregon. “Stations are not telling their viewers that what they are putting on the air in news or feature stories or in other news content is being done to court a specific advertiser,” he said. “I think people need to learn to be media literate, informed viewers of television. We may not be able to stop these practices but we need to be aware that these practices do exist.” (Click here for the ScienceBlog summary.)

Upshaw's co-researchers were David Koranda, a visiting professor of advertising, and former journalism doctoral student Gennadiy Chernov, now at the University of Regina in Saskatchewan. They “monitored two evening newscasts a month at 17 U.S. stations over four months in early 2004, including a February ratings sweeps week,” ScienceBlog reports. “The researchers explored promotional tone or content, product placement on the screen within stories or even on the desks of anchors, sponsored segments within newscasts and news framing, in which a legitimate story quietly raises positives images of companies or brands. . . . They documented 750 instances, about 2.5 individual slots per newscast – with an average of one minute, 42 seconds per occurrence – of commercial influences.” The study is in the June issue of Electronic News.

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