Bad Business in Beantown

New England NBC affiliate serves viewers a Christmas sham

Submitted by Daniel Price on
Clients: Fisher Price, Toshiba, Scholastic Media
Release Date: December 2005
Aired By: 1 station
Disclosed By: No stations

On December 20, 2005, WHDH-7 in Boston recut, re-voiced and repurposed a Christmas-themed video news release (VNR) from three consumer corporations.

The two-minute "news" segment, created by D S Simon Productions, was yet another story about the latest high-tech gagdets that Americans are buying their children this holiday season. In it, parenting expert and veteran VNR personality Julie Edelman discusses several "no can go wrong" gifts, including the Fisher-Price PowerWheels Mini-SUV, the Toshiba portable DVD player, and the Maya bilingual talking doll from Scholastic. On December 19, D S Simon distributed the VNR free-of-charge to news stations across the country, clearly indicating that the material was jointly funded by Fisher-Price, Toshiba and Scholastic.

Sadly, the people at WHDH-7 disguised the VNR as their own news product, sprucing up the video with station-branded graphics, fancy split-screen transitions, and an upbeat holiday soundtrack. They also replaced the narrating voice of the original D S Simon publicist with that of their own reporter, Christa Delcamp. Curiously missing from the new embelishments was a simple disclaimer letting viewers know that the story was produced and paid for by the makers of the very products being showcased.

Julie Edelman had previously been observed giving her seemingly-unbiased product advice in a Halloween VNR from Masterfoods and 1-800-Flowers, as well as a holiday satellite media tour sponsored by five different corporations.

View the original VNR, as well as the WHDH-7 segment, below.

Original Client VNR WHDH-7 5AM newscast
Created by D S Simon Productions December 20, 2005
Voiced by publicist Re-voiced by station reporter