Channel 13 needs to play fair when mixing its 'Blend'


Know your ad-speak, TV geeks.

There's infomercials, infotainment, advertainment and entermercials. ("Program-mercial-tainment," anyone?)

Whatever your preferred descriptor, Channel 13 will fulfill it weekday mornings at 9 come July 6 when it waves bye-bye to news and hello to buy-buy.

"Morning Blend" will begin percolating, its aromatic title suggesting a steamin' cup-o'-joe, though it's more a steamin' pile of sales. An hourlong newbie, it'll feature advertiser-sponsored segments: commercials, then commercial breaks before returning you to your regularly scheduled commercials.

Applying an entertainment sheen, this TV-show-as-cash-machine will ape a bright, cheery daytime yakker, some legit features inserted. That launches it into a similar orbit with Fox-5's dual "More" shows -- though those are also significantly fueled by entertainment content -- as well as Fox-5's "Better Las Vegas."

Core "Blend" content, though: perky pitch people approaching orgasm over their products, sprinkling phone numbers, addresses and websites onscreen like fairy dust.

Shorthand: pay for play. Odds of reversing the trend: like holding back the ocean with a broom. Given the brutal economy, stations nationwide dot their daytime schedules with "Blend" and "More" variations. Can't fight inevitability anymore (and this critic tried -- hard).

"Blend" will oust the lifestyle/news hybrid that itself replaced "Regis and Kelly" last fall, never sizzling onscreen and fizzling in the ratings. Last week, it landed last behind "Today," "Let's Make a Deal" and "More." Yet a newscast made dollars and sense, so to speak, saving on syndication costs while choking even more work out of its news department.

Tossing out the journalistic veneer, they can jack up income by charging advertisers for show airtime. Local ad rates were unavailable, but in larger markets fees for five-minute segments can begin at $500 and climb to $2,500 per pop.

Credit Channel 13 for hiring ex-Mix 94.1 jock Shawn Tempesta and former Weather Channel/"Daily Buzz" chatterer Dao Vu as show-fronters. Sparing 9 a.m. newsies Casey Smith and Lisa Remillard the indignity of hosting Huckster Central prevents further injury to credibility after the gaping wound of Nina-Gate and their overwrought, drama-queen coverage. (They're the Norma Desmond of Vegas TV.) "Blend" will be produced by the creative services department and segments handled by nonnews producers, a crucial and encouraging separatism.

"Conflicts come when the news division ends up doing negative stories about the sponsor, a la Toyota," says Al Tompkins of The Poynter Institute, a journalism think tank. "None of this is to say the programs are unethical, there is nothing unethical about accepting advertising."

Shill-meisters, though, prefer we perceive them through the lens of news legitimacy. Granting them that cheapens a news outfit. Hence -- how to label? How much? How often? "The station has to work hard to be clear that this is not a news program," Tompkins says, "and these are not news people."

Please, Channel 13: Don't flash a quickie, five-second "Paid By" crawl or play a fleeting announcement. Leave the graphic onscreen. Bench any "Action News"/ABC logos. Make your big bucks but don't further soil your brand.

Play fair with this fare.

Contact reporter Steve Bornfeld at sbornfeld@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0256.

 

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