A day after it was reported that Channel 3 filed a complaint charging that KLAS-TV, Channel 8 — as well as KVVU-TV, Channel 5 and KTNV-TV, Channel 13 — disguised paid advertisements as objective news stories, the local CBS affiliate mounted an aggressive defense, initiating its own FCC filing to dispute the allegations.
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Point the camera and cue the anchor:
We’re mad as, well, heck, and we’re not gonna take this anymore!
That slightly modified scene from "Network" could easily fit KLAS-TV, Channel 8, which on today struck back at charges of selling news content to an advertiser without disclosing it to viewers, leveled by KVBC-TV, Channel 3.
A day after it was reported that Channel 3 filed a complaint charging that Channel 8 — as well as KVVU-TV, Channel 5 and KTNV-TV, Channel 13 — disguised paid advertisements as objective news stories, the local CBS affiliate mounted an aggressive defense, initiating its own FCC filing to dispute the allegations.
Channel 3 requested an investigation in its filing and typically, stations wait for the FCC to evaluate the charges before responding, usually within 30 days.
In a statement issued today, Channel 8 blasted Channel 3's accusations as "a baseless complaint" and "completely irresponsible," and said its own FCC filing would "clearly (demonstrate) that news coverage on KLAS is determined solely by news management. ... Ethical journalism is a core principle at KLAS."
Lisa Howfield, Channel 3's general manager, said: "We have no comment. It is before the FCC and they will resolve the issue."
Channels 5 and 13 did not file similar FCC motions. "We want to see once the review is complete, then we will put our response together," said Jim Thomas, spokesman for Channel 13's owner, Milwaukee-based Journal Broadcast Group. "We can't make our decisions based on what (Channel 8) is doing, we have to go through our own process."
Darrin McDonald, Channel 5's general manager, said the station also is taking a wait-and-see approach. "We haven't decided on our next step," McDonald said, "but we reiterate that these are baseless and outrageous claims made by KVBC."
In the Channel 3 complaint filed Wednesday, the station accused its competitors of agreeing to include news coverage of an advertising client last May and June as part of a deal to land the advertising account, and failing to disclose that connection to viewers of their newscasts. That would violate the FCC's sponsorship identification rules.
The filing asserts that a representative of Arrowhead Advertising contacted a Channel 3 account executive to offer an ad buy for United Dodge Chrysler Jeep with the stipulation that the deal include on-camera interviews inside their newscast, a frowned-upon practice in journalism because sales concerns traditionally do not influence news coverage.
Channel 3 said it declined the deal but asserts in the filing that its competitors aired the disguised "news interviews."
Included in the complaint are transcripts of newscasts for each station.
The interviews with local auto dealers about liquidation sales aired when dealership closures were major news stories across the country.
Channel 8's statement accuses Channel 3 of "carefully (avoiding) directly stating the charges, either on the air or in interviews with other news outlets. It has instead only referred to what is stated in its FCC filing. This is because anyone can file a complaint with the FCC without being liable for defamation if the charges are inaccurate.
"If KVBC had any real basis for the charges made in its complaint against KLAS, it would have made a direct accusation and taken legal responsibility for the claim."
Emily Neilson, Channel 8's president and general manager, emphasized the station's determination to refute the charges.
"We are going to be proactive," Neilson said. "We fully intend to hold them accountable. We know how we operate and we know this is not true."
Contact reporter Steve Bornfeld at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0256.