This Just in: GM Loves Kids

KLFY-10 Child Safety Segment Really a Car Ad

Submitted by Daniel Price on
Clients: General Motors
Release Date: July 2006
Aired By: 1 station
Disclosed By: No stations

To increase sales to parents, automobile manufacturers go out of their way to present their cars (and themselves) as "child-friendly." So it's not surprising that an automaker would commission a video news release (VNR) about its child safety seat program. In fact, the Center for Media and Democracy's "Fake TV News" report included a a child safety seat VNR from DaimlerChrysler.

In July 2006, the broadcast PR firm Medialink Worldwide produced a VNR for General Motors titled, "Improving Child Safety in and Around Cars." The segment promotes the "Safe Kids Buckle Up" program, a GM-sponsored initiative that offers "child passenger safety education and hands-on assistance" with safety seats, according to its website. The VNR featured Torine Creppy of the Safe Kids program and concerned father Jeff Weaver.

The most revealing soundbite of the VNR came from GM head Rick Wagoner. "We find that if we work with Safe Kids and offer these types of clinics, at our local dealerships all around the country, we not only can do good ... occasionally we can sell an extra car or two," he said. "So, it works on all sides."

Unfortunately, KLFY-10 (Lafayette, LA) didn't include Wagoner's candid soundbite, when it aired the VNR on July 12, 2006. The station broadcast an edited version of the VNR, re-voiced by local reporter Blue Rolfes. Rolfes' "Eye on Health" segment opened with a few seconds from a recent KLFY-10 report, which proved once and for all that it is not safe for small children to play in parking lots.

The segment closed with station anchor Darla Montgomery providing a near-verbatim reading of the last few lines of the VNR script. No disclosure was provided to viewers of "Acadiana's Local News Leader."

The previous month, KLFY-10 had aired another VNR tracked in this study, from Allstate. Again, the station failed to disclose the source of the video.

The station's policy is to "not run video news releases," said KLFY-10 news director C.J. Hoyt. He couldn't speak to the two VNR broadcasts documented in this report, but identified miscommunication, confusion and staff turnover as possible factors. "There's no reason to use a VNR," he stated. "It's generally just a commercial for a product and that's not what we're in the business of doing."

Update: In December 2007, KLFY anchor Darla Montgomery contacted the Center for Media and Democracy to state that: "I am not in a position to make any decisions on what hits air, in what format and from what source. I can only advise based on my years of experience and if that advice is not taken, then it is out of my control. ... I worked very hard with great integrity to achieve my career goals and DO NOT support 'fronting' stories."

Original General Motors VNR KLFY-10 6PM newscast
Created by Medialink July 12, 2006
Voiced by publicist Re-voiced by station reporter