Monday, March 31, 2008

West Virginia wildlife agency buys editorial control of 'news' segments on Sinclair stations in state

"West Virginia Wildlife" is a recurring segment on WCHS-TV and WVAH-TV, and it won a regional Emmy in 2007 in the category of "Health/Science/Environment - News." The weekly segment, however, is not news. It's sponsored — and controlled editorially — by West Virginia's Division of Natural Resources, reports Andrew Clevenger of The Charleston Gazette. WCHS-TV and WVAH-TV both broadcast to the Charleston and Huntington markets.

Sinclair Media, which owns the two stations, "receives $90,000 annually to produce and air 52 90-second 'West Virginia Wildlife' segments, as well as 30-second ads that lead into the segment," Clevenger writes. "In return, the state agency maintains editorial control over the final product." The agency's Wildlife Resources Section must approve scripts and the promos ahead of time, and it provides segment topics and interview locations. The contract also includes the provision that the stations cover National Hunting and Fishing Days celebration at Stonewall Jackson Lake State Park and the West Virginia Trophy Hunters Association Hunt Show in Charleston.

"While the station does acknowledge the sponsorship, there is no indication during the news broadcast that 'West Virginia Wildlife' is any different from other news segments," Clevenger writes. "But unlike other advertisers, who might sponsor the station's weather coverage every night, DNR dictates its own coverage."(Read more) According to the Web site of WCHS-TV, the station "has teamed exclusively with the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, who will be our guide to the West Virginia's wildlife programs and activities." To watch archived segments, go here.

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