Channel 13 fined by FCC for making ads look like news

The enforcement arm of the FCC has completed an investigation of KTNV-TV, Channel 13 and has fined the station $115,000 for broadcasting car dealership ads disguised as news “Special Reports.”

“Broadcasters are not allowed to deceive the public by presenting commercial announcements or other paid programming in the guise of news or editorial content,” said Travis LeBlanc, chief of the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau. “Transparency is especially crucial in a situation like this one where a pseudo news report invites viewers to rely on their perception of the station’s independence and objectivity when, in fact, the message has been bought and paid for by an undisclosed third party.”

Frankly, I don’t ever recall seeing one of those “Special News” — Who in their right mind watches Channel 13 “news” anyway? — but it doesn’t sound all that deceptive. I’m sure most people who’ve stopped believing in Santa Claus saw through the ruse. What about the First Amendment? Even if the airwaves are limited, which in this day and age is a joke.

The FCC “uncovered” the fact an advertising agency paid Channel 13 to produce the “Special Reports” about liquidation sales at local Dodge, Chrysler, Jeep, Nissan, and Hyundai car dealerships in Las Vegas in 2009. The reports featured a KTNV staff person on location at the dealerships posing as a journalist.

The station, in addition to the fine, must implement a compliance plan and file compliance reports with the FCC every year for three years.

The local newspaper said station managers were not available for comment.

Neither were the newspaper’s managers available to comment on how relieved they are that there is no FCC oversight of newspapers.

The Society of Profession Journalists has an ethics code that includes:

Journalists should:

– Deny favored treatment to advertisers, donors or any other special interests, and resist internal and external pressure to influence coverage.

– Distinguish news from advertising and shun hybrids that blur the lines between the two. Prominently label sponsored content.

The code also says:

Journalists should:

– Expose unethical conduct in journalism, including within their organizations.

I don’t recall anyone blowing the whistle on Channel 13 back in 2009, but, like I said, who watched Channel 13? Perhaps this is one reason why.


9 comments on “Channel 13 fined by FCC for making ads look like news

  1. The ads featured a sales person who went to the auto dealerships mentioned and acted like she was doing a “Special Report,” not a paid commercial. They were incredibly deceptive. Remember, this station and its GM Jim Prather are repeat offenders. They gave us the Tire Works Scandal as well.

  2. Steve says:

    Did not a crazy bunch of crap happen due to a “news” report later found to be a radio “show” called “The War Of The Worlds” cause a fraction of the listeners to react and overreact in ways best described as extreme?
    But most people fell for it in no way at all. Too bad it only takes a tiny fraction of people to create a huge effing problem…take a look at Ferguson for a good example of THAT!
    I wonder just when the management forgot the reality of the past, then decided to repeat it….

    The FCC “uncovered” NOTHING. PEOPLE have to make official complaints BEFORE the FCC can act AND then it reacts at the “speed of corporate”. Or, in this case, bureaucracy.

    I too never saw one of these things,,,If I did I would have written to complain about it. I know the difference but masking ads as news is simply wrong.
    KTNV management is getting off easy for being so F%CKING idiotic. AND I believe they haven’t learned the least little bit of a thing about what they did or why it was wrong.

    Tom, you (of all people) should know just how wrong they were. Keeping opinion out of news was your job.

  3. Eddie InLiberty Hamilton says:



    In Re. A potential “unholy alliance” with the left wing Democrat caucus, to deny CONSERVATIVES of their hard earned leadership in the Nevada Legislature….

    A Hard Rains Gonna Fall {Live at Town Hall 1963} – YouTube
    Artist: Bob Dylan
    Album: The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan
    Released: 1963

    A Hard Rains Gonna Fall {Live at Town Hall 1963} – Elston Gunn
    Live 1963


  4. Good point Vegas Media Circus. Yes, Steve, it is unethical and someone in the media should’ve called them out, like Bornfeld did with tire story. That is what the SPJ code calls for. I don’t like government power being used to regulate speech, even deceptive speech. What will they next determine is deceptive?

  5. Steve says:

    If everyone were responsible and honest then there would be no need for government regulation of anything.
    We have to take the good with the bad in speech as well as government.

    If media were good a self policing we wouldn’t have need of these regulations. Same as police, if they are good at self policing then they won’t need a civilian review board.

    I, too, do not like government control of speech. But it is a necessary evil.

    I find it difficult to argue this side of it…I need Nyp’s help! 😉

  6. Rincon says:

    Who are you and what have you done with Steve?

  7. Steve says:

    Did you miss the fact I was born in Connecticut and raised in Massachusetts?

    There are limits to my conservatism, just as there SHOULD be limits to Nyp’s liberalism!
    (I am still waiting and hoping to see those.)

  8. Rincon says:

    I know, Steve. I had to give you a little poke, just for grins.

  9. Brian Hartley says:

    Here is a link to a video clip of KTNV’s “cash for clunkers” news item with the infamous “Special Report” intertwined in the same newscast:

    With regards to the aspect of “who watches Channel 13?” Over the years they’ve always been good for some laughs! LOL

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