Media experts yesterday said that disclosing information about advertisers who pay for news content could solve the problem of advertorials in newspapers.
Liu Huei-ling (劉蕙苓), assistant professor at the Graduate Institute of Arts Administration and Management at National University of the Arts, said similar practices had been used in the US and the UK.
US media regulations dating back to 1934 already stated that paid news must be clearly labeled as such. However, some people have lobbied for the removal of that regulation.
Liu said the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ruled in 2008 to keep the regulation, as consumers have a right to know if they are reading paid content.
Meanwhile, UK communications regulator OFCOM last month announced rules governing product placement on TV and paid-for references to brands and products on the radio.
Though banning product placement in certain programs, such as those for children and young people, the rules also required TV stations to place logos and labels on paid content.
A former TV news reporter, Liu said TV stations in Taiwan have the most systemized and organized way of handling paid news. She said 80 percent of the requests come from the government and 20 percent from the private sector.
“The paid news assignments will generally be divided into three lists. Those placed on the ‘A’ list mean that reporters have to go to the events and report the story,” Liu said. “Those on the ‘B’ list mean that reporters need to be at the events as they are organized by important advertisers. However, reporters are not obligated to report the stories because the advertisers do not pay for them. As for those on the ‘C’ list, reporters are not obligated to go and report the events and simply sending a cameraman to these events will do.”
Meanwhile, Liu said TV news costs about NT$100,000 per story and sometimes TV stations offer a “buy one, get one free” deal, meaning that the news will be aired in prime time first and a second time in non-prime time.
A 10-minute paid feature story could cost between NT$150,000 to NT$200,000, she said, adding that the deal could come with 90-second regular news coverage.
The issue of advertorials in print media became the center of public attention after veteran reporter Dennis Huang (黃哲斌) wrote an -article explaining why he decided to leave the Chinese-language China Times after working there for 16 years.
“The reason I left was simple. It was not for a better job or for more severance pay,” Huang wrote. “It was because I can no longer convince myself that this is a career that I can give myself to.”
“The government digs deep into our pockets with its left hand, uses the money to bribe the media and reaches into our brains with its right hand,” Huang wrote. “It does not bother to defend its policies or communicate with the people. It is too lazy to buy advertisements. Blowing the taxpayers’ money directly on the purchase of news is the most shameless way of media control.”
Liu and Huang were invited as panelists at the forum organized by the Foundation for Excellent Journalism Award. The panelists also included China Times executive deputy editor James Chang (張景為) and executive director of the Association of Taiwan Journalists Lin Chao-i (林朝億).
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