Lost in Translation

Spanish-Language Newscast Adapts VNR but Forgets the Disclosure

Submitted by Daniel Price on
Clients: Siemens
Release Date: October 2006
Aired By: 1 station
Disclosed By: No stations

On October 8, 2006, WLTV-23—a Spanish-language station in Miami, Florida—aired a news report on compact fluorescent light bulbs. The two-and-a-half minute feature included positive soundbites from Stephanie Anderson, a Sylvania spokeswoman; and Wendy Reed, a campaign manager at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's "Energy Star" program. Although Anderson and Reed both admitted that compact fluorescent lights are more expensive than traditional incandescent bulbs, the energy cost savings more than make up for it, they said. Reed added that fluorescent bulbs are better for the environment, since reduced energy consumption lowers greenhouse gas emissions.

Sounds good, except that WLTV-23 failed to inform its viewers that the entire story was built from a video news release (VNR) funded by Siemens AG, the corporate parent of Sylvania. The VNR, created by the broadcast PR firm Medialink Worldwide and narrated by publicist Kate Brookes, was produced entirely in the English language.

It's unknown if Medialink assisted with the Spanish translation of the VNR. In recent years, the company has established deep connections to Hispanic media markets, most notably through its Radio Noticias service. But WLTV-23 could have just as easily converted the script on its own.

In either case, WLTV-23 provided dubbed translations of all VNR soundbites, and enlisted its own meteorologist/environmental reporter, Paola Elorza, to introduce and narrate the segment. Aside from the translation, WLTV-23 made only minimal edits to the original VNR. The station didn't supplement the story with any of its own video, and completely failed to identify the VNR's funding source to its audience. To comply with FCC sponsor identification rules, all they had to say was "Producido por Siemens."

Original Siemens VNR WLTV-23 11PM newscast
Created by Medialink October 8, 2006
Voiced in English by publicist Re-voiced in Spanish by station reporter