Saying it had been misled by a Florida production house, CNN reversed itself Wednesday and said anchor Aaron Brown would not be appearing in what are essentially promotional spots for pharmaceutical drugs and health companies.
Brown had recently agreed to host a series of videos on the topic of health care for WJMK, based in Boca Raton, Fla. Such spots air between regular programming on local public-broadcasting stations.
Former CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite also agreed to host his own set of videos.
Eyebrows were raised, however, upon published reports that the set of the spots was to resemble a TV newsroom, potentially confusing viewers.
WJMK did not return phone calls.
CNN said WJMK didn’t make it clear that drug companies and other health-care entities helped to pay for the videos.
Had won CNN approval
“CNN previously approved Aaron Brown to participate in the American Review Series produced by WJMK because it was presented to Aaron and CNN as independent news vignettes for PBS stations over which Aaron was going to have editorial oversight,” the news net said in a statement.
“Based on information we recently learned, WJMK is not sufficiently independent to satisfy the editorial standards of CNN or Aaron Brown. Aaron Brown has not done any work for WJMK and has no intention to based on the new information. CNN fully supports his decision not to participate in any WJMK production,” the statement said.
Cronkite could not be reached for comment.
Several years ago, CBS’ “60 Minutes” co-anchor Morley Safer canceled a similar gig with WJMK after he and CBS determined the outside job didn’t meet the news net’s standards.
In recent years the FTC has upped its scrutiny of advertisers, aggressively targeting those who make unsubstantiated claims.
Under sections of the Federal Trade Commission Act, consumers are protected against “unfair or deceptive acts or practices.”
Deception cases filed
Several cases have been brought against makers of dietary supplements and food products. Most recently, the FTC has considered proposals that would require media companies to monitor advertisements for misleading claims regarding weight-loss products.
And in March, Rexall Sundown agreed to pay the FTC up to $12 million to settle complaints about its marketing practices.
Washington attorney Marc Scheineson, who’s a former associate commish of the Food & Drug Administration, said advertising in the form of news segments was an unusual tactic. “The FDA has the power to ask companies to pull ads that are false or misleading, but that’s traditionally based on the content of the ad, not the form,” he said.