NEW YORK: When Daily HealthFeed, a medical news service, revealed plans to distribute content that has been paid for by corporate sponsors, it touched off a debate about the ethics of pay-for-play.
The proposal - tentatively called "Health News Plus" (formerly "Headline Health") -offers pharmaceutical and medical device companies the opportunity to sponsor stories related to their products.
The content will be labeled and packaged separately from the seven stories that DHF already distributes each week in 40 markets, according to Kate Moynihan, general manager.
Moynihan also insisted that all sponsored content would undergo the same editorial review as other news stories.
"What we want to do - and the reason we're not a VNR company - is because we want to be independent," she said.
Both managing editor Dr. Mike Rosen and executive producer Angelina Cicala are award-winning journalists, she noted.
Yet she stopped short of saying that sponsors will have no hand in the final product.
That has raised a red flag for advocacy group Public Citizen.
In an interview, director Dr. Sidney Wolfe called the blurring of news and advertising "subtle and underhanded." He added that tight budgets and the need to fill space would give sponsors greater leverage in production.
Dr. Wolfe has sent a letter to 258 station general managers and news directors urging them to reject the programs. The letter was reprinted in the group's monthly newsletter.