As a result of "hospitals' desperate need to compete for lucrative lines of business" and "TV's hunger for cheap and easy stories," healthcare companies are increasingly getting into the (fake) news business. Sometimes "the hospitals pay for airtime"; sometimes "they don't but still provide expertise and story ideas" -- or prepackaged video news releases. "Viewers who think they are getting news are really getting a form of advertising," reports Trudy Lieberman. One healthcare company, Cleveland Clinic, "sends out prepackaged stories" every day, including to "Fox News Edge, a service for Fox affiliates that in turn distributes the pieces to 140 Fox stations." And, "since TV news operations are finding that they can get this kind of health 'news' supplied to them -- and might even make money on the deal -- they are tempted not to invest in a legitimate health reporter who would ask harder questions and look at the larger picture." Not surprisingly, Lieberman finds that "too often the full nature of the arrangements is not disclosed, or inadequately disclosed."
By Diane Farsetta on March 13, 2007