NEW YORK: A Google search for Terry Bradshaw's Winners Circle and Pick of the Week segments, which run on several cable news channels, reveals dozens of US companies touting their selection for the programs, an honor said to be bestowed upon
What none of the web pages appeared to state was that companies paid as much as $29,000 for the honor.
What appears to casual viewers as a neutral third-party endorsement is in fact a paid placement that inconsistently identifies itself as such.
The placements occupy a gray area in an era of blurred lines between advertising, editorial, and infomercial.
The segments air during commercial time on MSNBC, CNN Headline News, and CNBC.
A recent MSNBC airing had household viewership ratings of 300,000, according to data compiled by Nielsen.
According to a letter from producer Broadcast News Corp. (BNC) that was obtained by PRWeek, selected companies must pay a $29,000 "sponsorship fee" for the placement. No notification of that payment ever appears on the programs, though the programs are occasionally identified as spots paid for by Bradshaw.
A producer for BNC said that, because the company purchases the airtime, it has control over the content of the segment.
"We're doing this so we can tell a good story about companies," the producer told PRWeek.
Several companies that have appeared on the show were contacted for this story, but none returned phone calls by press time.
"It's unethical," said Peter Himler, a media consultant to Edelman. "To put out a release touting an appearance on a quasi news program [is misleading]."
A Winners Circle segment from a June 22 broadcast on MSNBC showed a subtle disclaimer that appeared sporadically, which said, "Paid by Bradshaw Communications." It was absent on a segment broadcast on April 20 on MSNBC.
Jeremy Gaines, MSNBC's corporate communications VP, said via e-mail that network policy for these types of ads is to have a disclaimer to "avoid any potential confusion" and that any omission was a mistake.