Two years ago, CBS Sports anchor Greg Gumbel "signed a 5-year contract with Paul Doug Scott's EncoreTV to appear as host for, what turned out to be, a Florida infomercial company," reports Rhonda Roland Shearer. Gumbel's agent told her, "It wasn't supposed to be an infomercial. One is hesitant to say he was duped, but yeah, I was duped." Some of the infomercials are titled "Eye on America," a CBS News brand, apparently without authorization from the network. The infomercials use "an identical newsroom set and ... identical animation graphics" to the cable news shows they follow, and have aired on CNN Headline News, without the required disclosure that they are advertisements. Turner Broadcasting, which owns CNN, admitted that it only vets "national ads sold by Turner sales people," and the Gumbel infomercials were sold and placed by a local provider, Time Warner Cable. Even some of the companies behind the infomercials thought they were being profiled on a real national news segment -- albeit one that requires guests to pay a $20,000 to $30,000 "scheduling fee." One company boasted that its executive had been "interviewed on CNN / Headline News' 'Eye on America.'" The infomercials have flacked "a mind-numbing and illogical diversity of products," Shearer writes, including timeshare sales, barley products, Internet security software, small universities and "my personal favorite, a distributor of aluminum trusses."
By Diane Farsetta on April 01, 2009