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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Is it Appropriate to Charge For News Coverage?


In Nogales, Arizona there's an interesting dispute going on between city officials and the management at KOFH-FM (Maxima 99.1). There's a new administration at city hall that's unhappy with the negative news coverage from the radio station. Nogales Mayor Arturo Garino says his administration is receiving that negative coverage because he refuses to pay for it, as the previous administration had. Garino has asked the FCC to investigate the matter. General Manager Oscar Felix told The Arizona Republic that while it's appropriate to charge for news interviews, the station's financial arrangements with the city have no influence on news coverage and commentary. Charge for news interviews?

According to the paper, the city paid the station $24,095 for news interviews, commercials and for entertainment during a city event over a three-year period before Garino took office. $4,925 of that total was for interviews with city officials, including former Mayor Octavio Garcia-Von Borstel, who was released from prison in March after serving 2? years on a felony corruption charge for soliciting and accepting bribes from a towing operator.

Garino told the paper that he was leaving the radio station following an interview once and the GM told him, "Next time you come to the radio station, Mayor, bring a check." Felix denies that conversation ever took place. The paper quotes Felix saying the station covers plenty of local news at no charge. "But when it's political campaigns, I have to charge everybody. "And, of course, when somebody needs the radio station to let the people know something, I do charge for them." The 14-year GM says he's disappointed only $800 has been spent by the current leadership. "It's peanuts, you know, because any hot-dog stand, he pays more than that," Felix said. "Any taco stand, any hot-dog stand, he pays more than $800 in three years."

Have you ever charged a local political figure to be covered by your news or morning team?

Picture courtesy The Arizona Republic

(8/22/2014 12:10:09 PM)
Pay for news coverage? Totally unethical and I was surprised one response even felt it was okay. If city hall merely wants to promote something then decide if it's a PSA or not or perhaps a news story but not ask for money. If city hall has some sort of money making enterprise, i.e., owns the local gas utility, then it's a commercial and charging to air "buy our gas" is fair.

Unfortunately, I'm afraid we'll see more of this without closer FCC oversight and self-policing by stations.

(8/22/2014 8:28:21 AM)
Charging for news coverage, news interviews, any quid pro quo is utterly ridiculous and symptomatic of what is happening to our once proud broadcast medium. Ethical? No way. What would Edward R. Murrow think? What would Walter Cronkite say? If you don't recognize what either of those gentlemen stood for, don't bother reading the rest of this comment. Have we lost our soul? Our collective minds? I recently read an online article on making radio "cool" again. This way ain't it.
(8/22/2014 5:55:28 AM)
Charging for interviews? Absolutely not. Not on matters of local government or, I would argue, even a campaign, so long as you're giving equal time to all sides. Entertainment at city events and advertising? Absolutely, by all means, charge money for that. But actual interviews and news coverage? Entirely unethical.
(8/22/2014 5:13:40 AM)
Common border practices.

My personal opinion is that the practice is ethical, but there is a fine line between promoting and extorting.

Local government is and should be treated like a business, any other business you would be doing business with. Local government buys tv spots, banner ads, billboards, radio should be the same.

With this said, the sales force and the news desk should never cross paths, we all know that.

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