Friday, April 18, 2014

NBC Nightly News's Dr. Nancy Snyderman Is A Shill For Merck

On Thursday, April 17, 2014, NBC News Chief Medical Editor Dr. Nancy Snyderman reported a story about allergies for NBC Nightly News.  During this story, she informed us that allergy shots could alleviate allergy symptoms.  Then she added this: "But now there are alternatives to injections.  Two new prescription pills just approved by the FDA treat certain grass pollen allergies.  Both melt under the tongue.  Grastek is for ages 5 years to 65, Oralair for ages 10 to 65.  Another, Ragwitek is approved for ragweed pollen."  During Snyderman's narration, three animated prescription pads appeared on the screen, each prominently containing the name and logo of the drugs she had just described.  Two of these drugs--Grastek and Ragwitek--are manufactured by pharmaceutical giant Merck (Oralair is manufactured by Stallergenes and distributed in the U.S. by Greer Laboratories).

Exactly one minute after Snyderman's story concluded, Nightly News aired a commercial for Shinglesinfo.com--a pseudo-informational website sponsored by Merck that contains a link to another site for the shingles vaccine drug Zostavax, which is (not surprisingly) manufactured by Merck.  Five minutes after the shingles ad, Nightly News aired a commercial for Dr. Scholl's P.R.O. Pain Relief Orthotics--another Merck product.  There was a precedent for Snyderman's dubious behavior: She had previously plugged Merck's Grastek in an allergy story that aired on the 12/11/13 Nightly News, a broadcast that also carried a commercial for Merck's Oxytrol.

It seems pretty obvious what's happening here.  At the very least, Snyderman made a point of plugging one of NBC's big sponsors in her allergy stories.  But I suspect a much less innocuous situation.  I believe that both of these allergy stories were concocted by the NBC Advertising and Marketing Department for the sole purpose of plugging newly-approved Merck drugs.  They may have even been part of a package deal.  NBC could have offered Merck a certain number of weekly or monthly ads on Nightly News--plus one or more in-story promotional plugs--for a special rate.  Certainly a plug from NBC News's Chief Medical Editor offers gravitas--a tremendous benefit for a pharmaceutical company whose products are fighting for attention alongside all the other products that are crammed into a 2½ minute commercial break.  And many (if not most) viewers ignore or zip through commercials, so an in-story product placement virtually guarantees that people will be watching.

Even before these allergy stories, Snyderman had already shilled for Merck.  On 6/4/13, she reported a Nightly News story about the benefits of sunscreen as a skin protector and anti-aging agent.  That report began with a clip from a Bain de Soleil ad (including the familiar jingle "Bain de Soleil for that Saint-Tropez tan").  Later in the story, the camera panned across a well-placed studio array of seven bottles of sunscreen, including three bottles of Coppertone--which were prominently positioned in front of the other sunscreens.  Both Bain de Soleil and Coppertone are manufactured by Merck.  Eight minutes after Snyderman's story aired, Nightly News ran a commercial for the aforementioned Dr. Scholl's P.R.O. Pain Relief Orthotics--which are (as previously noted) also a Merck product.  This is no coincidence.  NBC Nightly News producers, anchors and correspondents have a history of using "news stories" to plug NBC sponsors' products.  (For a detailed list of NBC Nightly News plugs and product placements, see this blog's 6/12/13 entry: "Brian Williams Uses Product Placements In NBC Nightly News Stories" or click on this link: http://nightly-daily.blogspot.com/2013/06/brian-williams-and-his-producers.html.)

But please don't get the idea that Merck is the only company that Snyderman shills for.  On 1/2/13, Nightly News aired Snyderman's story on fructose.  It included ad clips for Lean Cuisine, Weight Watchers and the weight-loss drug Alli--which is manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline--a frequent NBC advertiser and Nightly News in-broadcast sponsor.  A 7/15/13 Snyderman story on high blood pressure included a plug for Fritos (ironic, to say the least).  Her 8/2/13 story on gluten-free food options prominently featured gluten-free products like Ian's, Amy's, Glutino, Tastykake and Mi-Del.  On 8/10/13, Snyderman's story on new health insurance choices included 30 seconds of interior and exterior shots of a Starbucks.  Her 9/3/13 story on Diana Nyad featured a Dairy Queen plug.  On 1/15/14, Snyderman reported an alarmist story about how acetaminophen (most frequently sold in the U.S. as Tylenol) can damage the liver.  This story was clearly meant to hurt Tylenol and help its competitor Aleve--a pain-relief product manufactured by regular Nightly News sponsor Bayer.  On 2/27/14, she again railed about the dangers of acetaminophen.

It's shameful that any NBC producer, anchor or correspondent would use a news broadcast to plug a network sponsor, but it's even more shameful when done by a medical correspondent--and a physician, no less.  Of course, if NBC is, in fact, getting paid for these in-story product placements, that elevates the situation from shameful to unethical, and perhaps even to the point of illegality.  I don't see how viewers can possibly trust Nancy Snyderman to report honestly and objectively when one of her primary goals seems to be promoting the products of NBC sponsors.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Brian Williams & NBC Nightly News Plug, Plug, Plug The Sochi Olympics

Anyone who watches NBC Nightly News on a semi-regular basis knows that one of the main goals of Brian Williams and his producers is to use their broadcast to promote NBC sports, entertainment and news shows, as well as cable shows that appear on the many NBC/Universal networks such as USA, Bravo, SyFy, E! and The Weather Channel.  For example, on Monday, Feb. 17, Nightly News featured Brian's four-minute short-form documentary about Jimmy Fallon's new gig as host of The Tonight Show.  Obviously, this "news report" was meant to increase viewership for Fallon's premiere show later that night.  While some Nightly News promotions are blatant, some are not so obvious.  Last June 23 & 24, Lester Holt (Sunday) and Brian Williams  (Monday) spent a combined 4:35 promoting Nik Wallenda's tightrope walk across the Little Colorado River Gorge (adjacent to the Grand Canyon) which was also being aired as a Discovery Channel special.  Since Discovery Channel is not owned by NBC/Universal, these may have seemed like just another couple of stories that fell under the category of entertainment news.  However, neither Lester nor Brian (nor reporters Ben Fogle or Anne Thompson) disclosed that the Discovery Skywalk special was produced by Peacock Productions--a company owned by NBC/Universal.  So in actuality, this was a sleazy and deceptive way for Nightly News to drum up interest in a show that NBC would profit from--without any disclosure about the relationship between NBC and Discovery.  This is business as usual for Brian Williams and his Nightly News producers.  (Sidenote: In his June 23 story, Lester Holt announced that Wallenda would be walking across "the Grand Canyon".  That was an intentional lie--the Little Colorado River Gorge is not part of the Grand Canyon.  But Lester and his producers knew that invoking the Grand Canyon would be better for Discovery's Skywalk ratings.)  Another example: Nightly News occasionally does stories about the popularity of PBS's "Downton Abbey", but Brian and his correspondents often "forget" to disclose that "Downton Abbey" is produced by Carnival Films--which is owned by NBC/Universal.  These omissions are, of course, intentionally meant to fool viewers by promoting the show while masking the relationship between NBC and its subsidiary production companies.

But the Olympics are an entirely different animal.  No subterfuge is needed or even attempted in NBC's blatant and aggressive promotion of the Olympics every other year.  Since NBC paid dearly for the privilege of carrying the Olympics (their most recent deal, which began with the 2014 Olympics and runs through the 2020 Olympics, cost NBC $4.38 billion), they make sure to promote the Games through all NBC/Universal platforms.  And, of course, NBC Nightly News is a big part of that promotion.  A promotional story about the Olympics that airs on a news broadcast carries a lot more gravitas with the viewers than a similar story shown on an entertainment show.

Nightly News began promoting the 2014 Sochi Olympics on Feb. 5, 2013--more than a year before the opening ceremony was scheduled to begin.  That night's broadcast featured a 2:15 story on Lindsey Vonn's knee injury, and also included her then-rumored (and now public) romance with Tiger Woods.  Over the next 11 months, Nightly News aired 8 more Vonn stories totaling more than 14 minutes.  But those stories ended abruptly with a Jan. 7 story reporting that Vonn's knee injury had finally forced her to withdraw from the Olympics.  While this injury was devastating to Vonn, I suspect that it was even more devastating to NBC.  Up to that point, Vonn had been NBC's poster person for the Olympics.  And Nightly News had reported on every aspect of Vonn's life from her skiing to her romance with Woods to her "pretty" looks and "blonde hair".  After Vonn's knee injury, Nightly News's Vonn stories became a running will-she-or-won't-she soap opera about whether she would actually compete in Sochi.  When she finally announced that she would not compete, Nightly News dropped Vonn like a not-so-hot potato and instead began focusing on other Olympic stars like Gracie Gold, Lolo Jones and the Jamaican Bobsled Team.

So how much time did NBC Nightly News actually spend promoting the 2014 Olympics?  Beginning with that 2/5/13 Lindsey Vonn story, NBC Nightly News spent a total of 225 minutes--3 hours 45 minutes--promoting the Sochi Games.  Before the Sochi Opening Ceremony took place on Feb. 7, Nightly News had already spent 101 minutes promoting the Olympics.  And over the 17 days of competition, Nightly News spent another 124 minutes on stories meant to insure that viewers would tune in.  Permit me to state the obvious: The more people that watch the Olympics, the higher NBC's ratings will be.  And higher ratings translates to more ad revenue--either for these games or for subsequent Games.  So--no surprise--Nightly News's extensive promotion of the Olympics was really just a way to generate revenue for NBC.  Let's put this in perspective.  Nightly News isn't a 30-minute broadcast.  It isn't even a 24-minute broadcast.  After filtering out the commercials, the opening tease, the incessant promotions (for The Today Show, The Tonight Show, Meet the Press, Dateline, etc.) and Brian Williams's overlong sign off, a Nightly News broadcast usually contains somewhere between 18½ and 19½ minutes of news (the word "news" is really a misnomer, since a Nightly News broadcast often includes many minutes of non-news stories.  But for these purposes, we can generously consider all Nightly News stories to be actual news).  Occasionally (though rarely), a broadcast will run a few seconds over 20 minutes.  So even assuming a 20-minute run time for a broadcast, the 225 minutes that Nightly News spent promoting the Olympics is equivalent to more than 11 entire Nightly News broadcasts.  That raises a disturbing question: What stories didn't Nightly News cover in order to spend 225 minutes promoting the Olympics over the course of an entire year?  In 2013 and early 2014, there were elections in Kenya, Cambodia, Mali, Pakistan. Zimbabwe, Australia, Norway, Germany, Austria, Chile, Bangladesh and Thailand.  Nightly News did not report a single story on any of these elections.  But we sure learned an awful lot about Lindsey Vonn's knee.

So how did the 3 hours 45 minutes Nightly News devoted to promoting the 2014 Olympics stack up against past Olympics?  Before and during the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, Nightly News spent a meager 2 hours 40 minutes on Olympic promotional stories.  And Nightly News aired 3 hours 9 minutes of promotional stories for the 2012 Summer Games in London.  But the 3 hours 45 minutes Nightly News spent promoting the Sochi Olympics represents a new Olympic record.  Well done!  Brian Williams, his producers and everyone at NBC Nightly News deserve a gold medal for their efforts.  (Although sadly, despite the combined efforts of everyone at NBC, ratings for the Sochi Games were down an estimated 12% from the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games.)  And I think it's a safe bet that for the 2016 Rio Games, Nightly News's promotional story total will easily eclipse the 4-hour mark.  Now there's something to look forward to.  Starting, no doubt, in the summer of 2015.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Brian Williams And The NBC Nightly News Producers Fudge The Numbers--Again

Here's something interesting for NBC Nightly News viewers: Brian Williams was off Friday, Dec. 20.  He returned to anchor Nightly News on Monday, Dec. 23, and then took off Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.  That seems odd.  Why would he take Friday off, return for just one day and then take the next four days off?  If not for Monday, he could have had a vacation of ten consecutive days (or more, depending on his schedule for New Year's week).  Well, remember that nothing at Nightly News happens randomly or by accident.  There was a very specific reason why Brian anchored the broadcast for only one day this past week.  And, not surprisingly, it has to do with ratings.  On those weekdays when Brian is off and someone else anchors the broadcast, the ratings are always lower than on the days when Brian anchors.  So on those days when Brian isn't anchoring (and he and his producers know the ratings will be lower), they submit Nightly News to the Nielsen ratings company intentionally misspelled as "Nitely News".  When that happens, Nielsen counts the lower-rated "Nitely News" shows in a separate category from the correctly-spelled Nightly News broadcasts, and thus they don't detract from the higher Nightly News ratings.  For example, let's say Monday's Nightly News broadcast anchored by Brian earned a 7.5 rating.  And let's say the other four broadcasts (with a substitute anchor) averaged a 6 rating.  The actual average Nightly News rating for the week would be a 6.3.  But because Brian and his producers submitted the Tuesday through Friday broadcasts misspelled as "Nitely News", they are not counted in the same category as Nightly News.  So Brian and his producers can claim that Nightly News actually had a 7.5 rating for the week--even though that number is deceptively based on just a single broadcast.  That's why Brian made sure to anchor one broadcast this past week.  Whatever rating Brian achieved on Monday will be considered the Nightly News rating for the entire Christmas week, since the other four (lower-rated) broadcasts were submitted to Nielsen with a different spelling.  And with a higher weekly rating, NBC can charge higher ad rates.  It's fudging the numbers and playing the system.  Another way to describe it: Cheating.  It's like giving a false name to the police so they won't know you have outstanding warrants under your real name.  This sleazy practice of intentionally misspelling Nightly News as "Nitely News" has been going on for years with the full blessing of Brian and former NBC News President Steve Capus.  And apparently, new NBC News president Deborah Turness has also signed off on this unethical practice.  This is the type of organization the NBC executives preside over.  Their main concern is high ratings--rather than delivering news--since that allows NBC to charge higher ad rates.  And let's face it--earning higher ad rates is what matters most to the NBC executives.  So Merry Christmas from all the highfalutin lowlifes at NBC News!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Brian Williams Just Doesn't Care Anymore

On Tuesday's NBC Nightly News (7/2/13), Brian Williams read a story about NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.  Brian informed us that Snowden has made asylum requests to almost two dozen countries--including "nine countries in Europe".  However, as Brian said this, the accompanying on-screen map of Snowden's potential destinations highlighted eleven European countries: Iceland, Norway, Finland, the Netherlands, Ireland, Switzerland, Spain, Germany, Poland, Austria and Italy.  Perhaps Brian doesn't realize that Scandinavia is part of Europe.  But if you subtract the three Scandinavian countries, that would leave eight, not nine, European countries.  It's more likely that Brian just doesn't give a shit anymore.  Nine, eleven--whatever.  His job is secure, so why should he care about accuracy.

Later in the broadcast, Brian introduced a story about the increasing number of women who die as a result of addiction to prescription painkillers.  This was his intro: "Big news today about a spike in the number of middle-age women who are becoming addicted to prescription pain medicines and a warning from the CDC about the thousands who are dying from it--over 6,000 women every year.  Our report tonight from NBC's Tom Costello."  And here's how Costello's report began: "The statistics from the CDC are cause for real concern for doctors, pharmacists and hospitals.  Between 1999 and 2010, nearly 48,000 women died of prescription painkiller overdoses."  So if 48,000 women died over that 12-year period, that averages out to 4,000 a year--not the 6,000 Brian quoted us.  (The CDC website confirms that in 2010, 6,600 women died from painkiller overdoses, but the 1999-2010 total clearly shows that that is not the case "every year", as Brian claimed.)  But quoting the most recent year's number of "over 6,000" makes the story sound a lot more alarmist and sensationalistic than the smaller (but accurate) yearly average of 4,000 so Brian went with that.  When it comes to selling a story, Brian doesn't care about accuracy.

But here's something Brian really, really does care about:  Promoting fast-food chains on his broadcast.  Brian began reading a story about the so-called worst meal in America, but it quickly turned into a commercial for the chain in question: "The folks at the Center for Science in the Public Interest--sometimes affectionately known as the food police--have identified what they are calling 'The Worst Meal In America'--'The Big Catch' at Long John Silver's.  It features fried fish, hush puppies and onion rings and comes in at 33 grams of trans-fat."  But then Brian shifts gears: "The company today called the meal a tremendous value at $4.99 and said customers had the option of healthy side orders."  The last 10 seconds of this story was comprised of clips from Long John Silver's TV ads.  So clearly, what started out as a negative story became an excuse for Brian to help Long John Silver's advertise their products and battle any negative publicity associated with the Center's report.  "A tremendous value at $4.99"!  If Brian says it, it must be true.  Because he's, you know, trustworthy.  Of course, shilling for fast food companies is nothing new for Brian.  Here's a "news story" he read on the 4/5/13 Nightly News: "There's marketing news--in what USA Today calls an astonishing brand reversal, KFC is about to go big on boneless chicken.  If you like a bucket of chicken, you know you'd never think to say 'boneless' when ordering it but now they're betting on the new original recipe boneless in what brand experts say is the biggest new product introduction for KFC in modern times."  I'd love to know how much KFC paid Brian to read that shameless ad.  Of course, when it comes to getting on-air endorsements from Brian Williams, KFC can't hold a candle to McDonald's.  Over the past four years, Brian Williams and his Nightly News correspondents have reported an astonishing 17 "news stories" on McDonald's (all positive, I might add).  That's not surprising when you consider the staggering amount of money McDonald's spends on advertising and promotion on the many NBC/Universal/Comcast television networks.  So I guess working McDonald's product placements into news stories is just a way for Brian and his NBC News cohorts to give a great big "thank you" to a regular advertiser.

Sometimes, though, the best strategy is to say nothing.  A 7/1/13 New York Times article reported that the pharmaceutical mega-conglomerate GlaxoSmithKline was being investigated in China for "economic crimes" including bribery (read the full story at http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/02/business/global/glaxosmithkline-under-investigation-by-chinese-authorities.html?ref=global).  Glaxo is a frequent sponsor and advertiser on NBC Nightly News (and other NBC/Universal/Comcast shows), so Brian certainly wasn't going to report this story.  He may like to shill for his sponsors, but he also knows when to keep his big mouth shut.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

NBC News' Janet Shamlian Shills For The Pharmaceutical Industry

On Sunday's NBC Nightly News (6/30/13), correspondent Janet Shamlian reported on a new drug called Brisdelle that, for some women, may reduce hot flashes associated with menopause.  Of course this is Nightly News, so the story was just a 2:05 product placement for Brisdelle (and its manufacturer Noven).  But really it was so much more.

Shamlian and Lester Holt (the anchor who introduced the story) told us that Brisdelle had been approved by the FDA.  However, neither Holt nor Shamlian disclosed the following information:  "In March, the FDA's Advisory Committee for Reproductive Health Drugs voted 10 to 4 against recommending approval of paroxetine mesylate [Brisdelle] as a treatment for hot flashes."  (That information courtesy of Medscape News: http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/807082.)  It is highly unusual for the FDA to go against an advisory committee recommendation, and Nightly News viewers deserved to know this information.  But that would require Shamlian to be fully truthful about Brisdelle, which she was not.

Shamlian also failed to disclose that Noven Pharmaceuticals has entered into a licensing agreement with Procter & Gamble whereby P & G will license Noven's as-yet-unnamed hormone skin patch which is designed to boost sex drive in women.  P & G is the largest consumer products company in the world, and each year it spends millions and millions of dollars in advertising and sponsorship money with the many NBC/Universal/Comcast television networks.

Later in the story, Shamlian explained that Brisdelle contained a lower dose of paroxetine, the major ingredient found in the anti-depressant Paxil.  We were then shown a full-screen photo of a clearly-labeled Paxil pill.  Paxil is manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline, a pharmaceutical behemoth that advertises heavily on Nightly News and other NBC/Universal/Comcast programs.

Shamlian's report began with a silly clip from "Mrs. Doubtfire" that showed Robin Williams' character complaining that he'd only been impersonating a woman for one day and already he's getting hot flashes.  Obviously, this did not help the viewers' understanding of menopausal hot flashes--it was just a gratuitous clip shoehorned into the story to make it more interesting to viewers.  One of the core philosophies of the NBC Nightly News producers (and anchor Brian Williams) is to pack their broadcast with movie and TV clips because the NBC Research Department has found that that tactic is very effective in boosting Nightly News's Nielsen ratings.

So let's recap: Shamlian intentionally omitted important information about the FDA's approval process for Brisdelle.  She neglected to mention Noven's licensing arrangement with NBC/Universal advertiser P & G.  She plugged Glaxo's Paxil.  And just for good measure, she threw in a clip from "Mrs. Doubtfire".  This wasn't a news story--it was a sleazy, unethical piece of biased yellow journalism.  It was a product placement (several of them, actually) masquerading as news.  But for NBC Nightly News, that's just business as usual.  Shame on Janet Shamlian and the Nightly News producers.  Interesting tidbit: You can't spell "Janet Shamlian" without the words "sham", "shame" and "lie".

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Brian Williams And Lester Holt Are Sleazy Shills For NBC Shows

Anyone who's watched NBC Nightly News more than a handful of times knows that one of its main goals is self-promotion.  Brian Williams, Lester Holt and the Nightly News producers have made a conscious decision to use their broadcast as a promotional vehicle for NBC sports, entertainment and news programs.  Some of these promotions are subtle--such as the repeated inclusion of clips from "Meet the Press", "Dateline", "Rock Center", MSNBC and CNBC shows--and some of these promotions are about as subtle as a brick to the head.  During the 17 days of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, Nightly News spent an astounding 130 minutes "reporting" on Olympic-related stories as a way to aggressively promote viewership of their prime-time Olympic coverage (they also spent an additional 30 minutes on Olympic stories that were reported before and after the Games).  When you consider that a Nightly News broadcast contains less than 20 minutes of actual news, those 160 minutes represent the equivalent of 8 entire broadcasts.  For the 2012 London Olympics, the totals were even more egregious: Nightly News spent 147 minutes rabidly promoting the Olympics during the 17 days of competition plus an additional 45 minutes of Olympic-related stories leading up to the Games.  That works out to the equivalent of more than 9 entire Nightly News broadcasts.  I think we can safely say that Brian Williams, Lester Holt and their producers do everything they possibly can to shamelessly promote the Olympics for NBC (I can only imagine how much time they will spend promoting the 2014 Sochi Games).
 
But it doesn't end with the Olympics.  The highest-rated regular-season shows for NBC are the Sunday Night Football games they broadcast.  In fact, Sunday Night Football is usually the highest-rated network broadcast of the week.  So it would be an understatement to say that Nightly News (which precedes the game on Sunday nights) aggressively promotes NBC's Sunday Night Football.  On Sundays during football season, the last "news story" of the night is often a football-related story.  And more often than not, it's a story involving a player, players or teams scheduled to play later that night on NBC.  2010 was a standout year for Nightly News's promotion of Sunday Night Football.  Here are a few examples:  On Sept. 8, Nightly News ran a story about the Vikings' Madieu Williams.  And the following night, Brian Williams actually anchored the broadcast from New Orleans just so he could promote that night's Saints-Vikings season opener on NBC.  On Sept. 19, Nightly News did a story on Eli and Peyton Manning--right before NBC's Giants-Colts game.  On Sept. 26, there was a story about how the NFL recruits young fans.  On Oct. 17, we saw a Nightly News story about how members of the Washington Redskins were raising awareness about breast cancer--immediately followed by the Redskins-Colts game.  On Oct. 24, the story was about a college football coach who was recalled to active duty in the navy reserve.  And on Nov. 28, the final story of the night was about a charity run by the San Diego Chargers' Philip Rivers--right before the Chargers-Colts game.  But my favorite Nightly News football promotion story was on a Tuesday (Dec. 28, 2010, to be exact).  That week's Sunday night game in Philadelphia had been postponed due to a blizzard, and the game had been rescheduled for Tuesday.  That night, beginning at minute nine (before the first commercial break, which is considered prime news space), Brian spent an incredible 5:45 talking about that night's Eagles-Vikings game--first with Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell (nattily attired in a Comcast jacket) and then with NBC Sports commentator Bob Costas. Obviously, the only reason for this segment was to make absolutely certain that viewers knew the game would be airing THAT NIGHT ON NBC.  It's hard to imagine a sleazier, more unethical promotional segment than this one.  (A similar Rendell interview had already aired on Monday in addition to Brian Williams' two-minute talk with Michelle Kosinski about the rescheduling of the game to Tuesday.)  Clearly, none of these stories qualified as actual news--Nightly News ran them for one reason and one reason only--to promote NBC's Sunday Night Football.
 
And to this day, nothing has changed.  Brian and his producers continue to use Nightly News as a promotional vehicle for other NBC sports, entertainment and news shows.  Here are some examples from just this past week:
 
Monday 6/17/13--During a story about NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, Andrea Mitchell mentioned an interview that President Obama had given to Charlie Rose.  Mitchell told us that the interview would be airing "tonight on PBS".  That's true--but Mitchell intentionally omitted an important piece of information.  The Obama interview was also scheduled to run on Rose's other gig--Tuesday's "CBS This Morning".  Mitchell didn't mention that because "CBS This Morning" competes with NBC's "Today Show".  And we all know about "Today's" recent anchor troubles and ratings slippage.  So Mitchell intentionally refused to mention CBS in order to protect "Today".  That's pretty unethical.  And sleazy.  I used to think that Mitchell was an honest, respectable reporter, but as it turns out, she's just another NBC shill.  Also during her Snowden story, Mitchell showed some old Nightly News footage of herself from 1995 because if there's one thing Nightly News anchors and correspondents love reporting on, it's themselves.
 
The final story of the night was a frivolous, vapid piece about how Russian President Vladimir Putin supposedly stole a Super Bowl ring from New England Patriots' owner Robert Kraft.  This is hardly a legitimate news story, but football season is less than three months away and it's time to start promoting NBC's Sunday Night Football.
 
Tuesday 6/18/13--Again reporting on Snowden, Andrea Mitchell showed a clip of Rose's interview with Obama--from his PBS show.  There was still no mention that the interview had also aired on "CBS This Morning".  The overwhelming mandate ringing through the halls of NBC News's 30 Rock studios is to protect and promote "Today" at all costs.  Even if it means a once-reputable NBC News correspondent like Mitchell has to lie.
 
Also on this broadcast, we saw a two-minute story about the protests in Brazil.  This was somewhat curious, considering that Nightly News doesn't pay much attention to foreign news.  But of course, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil is the site of the 2016 Summer Olympic Games (which, of course, NBC is airing), so naturally the Brazil story got coverage.  I can guarantee that if it weren't for the Rio Olympics, this would have been a 20-second story, if it even got any coverage at all.
 
Wednesday 6/19/13--An obituary for Slim Whitman included a clip of him on "The Tonight Show" with Johnny Carson (Carson was featured in the clip, as well).  "The Tonight Show" is one of the biggest beneficiaries of Brian's promotional largesse.  He loves to constantly promote it under any circumstances, but with the impending changeover from Jay Leno to Jimmy Fallon, "Tonight" will no doubt be receiving plenty of extra promotion from Brian and the other Nightly News anchors.  And if you think that showing an old clip of "Tonight" doesn't have any current promotional value, you should check with the NBC research department.  They'll set you straight.
 
Earlier in the broadcast, while Brian was reporting on the 1996 crash of TWA flight 800, he showed an old clip of himself reporting the crash on MSNBC in 1996.  I guess in the game of narcissistic one-upmanship, Brian refused to be outdone by Andrea Mitchell's 1995 clip of herself that she showed on Monday.
 
Thursday 6/20/13--Because promoting the 2016 Rio Olympics is so important to NBC, correspondent Miguel Almaguer was hastily dispatched to Brazil to cover the riots.  Almaguer made a point of specifically mentioning the Olympics in his story.
 
During Brian's unbelievably long 4:40 obituary for James Gandolfini, he included some footage of himself interviewing Gandolfini.  Because let's face it--the news is ALWAYS about Brian.
 
Friday 6/21/13--Again reporting from Brazil, Miguel Almaguer mentions the 2016 Olympics.  Since Tuesday, Nightly News has spent 5:20 reporting on the Brazil riots.  That's 5:20 of free promotion for the 2016 Olympics.
 
During a report about teaching math to Chicago grade-school students, correspondent Rehema Ellis asks a little girl what she likes so much about forensic science.  The girl responds that it makes her feel like "the detectives on Law & Order".  I wonder how many times Ellis had to shoot the scene before the girl said "Law & Order" instead of "CSI".
 
Saturday 6/22/13--The final story of the night was an idiotic 2:18 piece about the two men who sing the National Anthem for their respective hockey teams--the Bruins and the Blackhawks--at the Stanley Cup Finals.  Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals would be airing later that night on NBC so this was just a sleazy way to promote the game.  And just to make sure we didn't forget, Lester Holt ended the broadcast with another "reminder" for us to watch the game.  On NBC.  By the way--the story was titled "The Voice"--the name of an NBC entertainment show.  So in a story that shamelessly plugged NBC's Stanley Cup Finals, they also managed to throw in a plug for their idiotic singing competition show.  Nice job.
 
Maybe Lester should concentrate more on reading the news and less on plugging NBC sports and entertainment shows.  Earlier in the broadcast, he referred to Edward Snowden as "Eric" Snowden.
 
Sunday 6/23/13--A story about "Extreme Weather" featured the Weather Channel's Julie Martin.  Nightly News spends a lot of time promoting the Weather Channel.  That makes sense, since NBC/Universal owns the Weather Channel.  And spending 2 or 3 minutes a night reporting on the weather is a cheap way to use existing Weather Channel resources to fill news time.  And keeping costs down increases profitability.
 
The final story of the night was a ridiculous 2:20 "news story" on Nik Wallenda, who was preparing to walk across the Grand Canyon on a tightrope later that night.  Both Lester Holt and correspondent Ben Fogle told us that Wallenda would be crossing the Grand Canyon.  And both of them lied.  Wallenda would actually be crossing the Little Colorado River Gorge, which is adjacent to, but not part of, the Grand Canyon.  Calling it the Grand Canyon was just a way to further sensationalize the story.  The story included lots of promotional footage from the Discovery Channel, which would be televising the walk live later that night.  Fogle did everything he could to build anticipation, including telling us that Wallenda was "putting his life on the line".  This was nothing more than a 2:20 commercial for the Discovery Channel special airing later that night.  And like he did with the Stanley Cup Finals story in Saturday, Lester ended the broadcast with another plug for Discovery's "Skywire Live" (including a full-screen promo) and told us that it would be hosted by Natalie Morales and Willie Geist--two anchors from "The Today Show".  That's a lot of promotion for a Discovery Channel special.  But there's something Lester Holt and Ben Fogle didn't tell us: The Discovery Channel Special was being produced by Peacock Productions--a production company owned by NBC.  So obviously NBC had a financial stake in the special and NBC had an interest in boosting viewership.  So NBC used Nightly News to plug a Discovery Channel special that they were producing.  And profiting from.  That's not just sleazy, it's unethical.  And Lester Holt and Ben Fogle are sleazy scumbags for refusing to disclose NBC's financial interest in Wallenda's walk.
 
And once again, maybe Lester should have concentrated more on reading the news than promoting NBC-produced shows.  During a story about the Dayton Air Show crash, he described the wing-walker who was killed as Jane "Walker", rather than Jane Wicker, her actual name.
 
Monday 6/24/13--Before the second commercial break, Brian Williams said, "We're back in a moment with news of a big loss in the entertainment world."  A big loss?  Is it Barbra Streisand?  Tony Bennett?  No--it was Gary David Goldberg.  Who?  He was the creator of "Family Ties"--a show that ran on NBC in the 1980's.  No disrespect to Goldberg's family, but he isn't a big loss.  Hardly anyone knows who he is.  The only reason Brian reported this story was to boost sales of "Family Ties" DVD's and other memorabilia at the NBC on-line store.  And just to whet our appetites, this 45-second story included 25 seconds of "Family Ties" clips.  We all love Michael J. Fox, right?  Right.
 
Later, Brian reported that Paul Giamatti would be joining the cast of "Downton Abbey" next season.  The story featured lots of "Downton Abbey" clips.  But Brian neglected to mention one little fact: "Downton Abbey" is produced by Carnival Films--which is owned by NBC/Universal.  So Brian used Nightly News to promote an NBC property without disclosing NBC's involvement.  Sleazebag.
 
Brian also reported a 30-second story on Paula Deen's crumbling empire.  He ended the story by telling us that Deen would be appearing on Wednesday's "Today Show".  Brian had already spent 2:30 reporting on Deen's troubles on Friday's Nightly News, but this "news story" allowed him to promote "Today".  Shameful.
 
Brian ended Monday's Nightly News with a 2:15 story--I should say another story--on Nik Wallenda's Sunday tightrope walk across the not-quite-Grand Canyon (at least Brian admitted it was "across a gorge NEAR the Grand Canyon").  As was the case with Lester Holt and Ben Fogle, Neither Brian nor correspondent/shill Anne Thompson (who reported the story) disclosed that NBC had produced Sunday's Discovery Channel Special, although Thompson made sure to tell us that 13 million people had watched and that it had been seen in 217 countries.  So that's the second "news story" on Wallenda's walk in two days--4:35 of prime news time wasted on a story whose only purpose was to promote an NBC-produced show.  But why would Brian and his producers bother promoting a show that had already aired?  Because in this day and age, TV shows are never really over (except for "Rock Center", Brian's failed exercise in narcissism).  Discovery's "Skywire Live" special continues to air on Discovery On Demand--along with lots of "extras" and behind-the-scenes clips.  So any additional ad revenue that Discovery derives from the repeat airings, DVD's, etc., will certainly be shared by NBC.
 
So let's recap: Monday's Nightly News was an opportunity for Brian Williams to plug "Family Ties" DVD's, Downton Abbey and Discovery's "Skywire Live" special.  That's a pretty good day for NBC.
 
Here's a little irony: On Sunday and Monday, Lester Holt and Brian Williams both reported on the start of the George Zimmerman trial.  And after their stories, they each read this disclaimer: "We should note that George Zimmerman has sued NBC/Universal, the parent company of NBC News, for defamation.  The company has strongly denied his allegations."  What Brian and Lester are referring to is Zimmerman's lawsuit against NBC for intentionally altering his 911 tapes to make him appear racist.  (Even after this became public, Brian and Lester never once acknowledged on the air that this misdeed had actually taken place.)  So when it comes to offering a weaselly denial/disclosure that helps NBC, Brian and Lester are more than willing.  But when it comes to disclosing that NBC is producing "Downton Abbey" and the Discovery "Skywire Live" special, they suddenly become tight-lipped.  Brian Williams and Lester Holt are scumbags of the highest order.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Brian Williams Uses Product Placements In NBC Nightly News Stories

Unfortunately, product placements have become an all-too-familiar part of the television landscape.  When a particular food, beverage or consumer product suddenly gets a close-up in a comedy, drama, reality show or singing competition, it's a sure bet that some mega-corporation paid a hefty sum to have it placed there.  We can roll our eyes (or avert them), hit the fast-forward button, change the channel or turn the TV off, but that's not going to change anything.  Money talks and it talks loudly.  It's a sad reality that most people have come to accept product placements as just another part of their regular TV viewing.

But what about product placements in news broadcasts?  When we watch the news--unlike entertainment--there is certainly an expectation of ethics and integrity.  News stories should be selected because of their importance and relevance, not because they can be used to promote a product or thank a sponsor.  Unfortunately, that's not the case on NBC Nightly News.  Brian Williams--as well as the producers, correspondents and other anchors on NBC's flagship newscast--regularly use their show as a way to promote their sponsors' products.  To put it bluntly, this is sleazy and dishonest.  Obviously, product placements on a newscast raise a number of important ethical questions.  Are the placements a way for Brian and his producers to say "thank you" to a regular Nightly News or NBC sponsor?  Are they a marketing tool to try to entice companies to advertise in the future?  Or are they paid for as part of ad packages?  Are companies allowed to "buy" a news story on Nightly News?  (I'm not referring to paid sponsorships, which are introduced by an announcer and accompanied by a full-screen product logo.  That's a whole separate category and only slightly less unethical than unannounced in-story sponsorships.)  When Brian Williams takes 30 seconds to tell us that Frito-Lay products will now be "all-natural" (as he did on 12/28/10), or that Fig Newtons will now be known simply as Newtons (as he did on 5/1/12), are those legitimate news stories?  I can't imagine how inane fluff like that could possibly qualify as news.  It seems much more likely that they are sponsored product placements paid for by Frito-Lay and Nabisco.  I believe that the brazen NBC News ad sales reps actually offer 30-second contrived news stories (or product placements within a longer news story) to companies that are willing to pay to have their products promoted by Brian Williams and other NBC News personalities.  It's hard to doubt that with all these examples of product placements and mentions on NBC Nightly News dating back to 2007 (this list is updated from its last appearance on this blog which was in April, 2012):

* 7/18/07--Nightly News airs a story about Restless Leg Syndrome.  The sole purpose of the story is to establish the legitimacy of RLS because many doctors do not acknowledge it as a legitimate medical condition.  One of the main drugs used to treat RLS is Requip, a frequent Nightly News advertiser at the time (Requip was specifically mentioned in the story).  And in addition to their regular advertisements, Requip (manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline) sponsored nine Nightly News "Making A Difference" segments from April 2007 to January 2008 (the dates were 4/20/07, 5/25/07, 6/22/07, 7/6/07, 7/27/07, 8/3/07, 9/14/07, 1/11/08 and 1/18/08).  There is absolutely no doubt that the story on Restless Leg Syndrome was done as a special favor to Nightly News's pals at Glaxo as a way of saying thank you for all that Glaxo ad money.
* 11/13/07--Brian Williams anchors Nightly News from a Chrysler plant in Detroit.  This broadcast is a thinly-disguised 30-minute commercial for Chrysler, a frequent Nightly News and NBC advertiser.  At the end of the broadcast, Brian interviewed Chrysler executive Jim Press.  Brian's "interview" was made up of softball questions that allowed Press to talk about how great Chrysler's cars and trucks are (Brian even gets in on the act of praising Chrysler products: "This is going to make some buyer somewhere very happy.").  Less than three months later (2/5/08), Chrysler sponsored the entire Nightly News broadcast.  An obvious example of quid pro quo.
* 1/31/09--A story about 3-D ads during the Super Bowl prominently features Lifewater beverages--a product that advertised on the following day's Super Bowl.  On NBC.
* 2/23/09--Nightly News features a report about how thoroughly United Airlines cleans its planes.  United is a frequent Nightly News advertiser.  This story is just a big thank-you from NBC to United.
* 5/5/09--Nightly News airs a "news story" about McDonald's new gourmet coffees.  McDonald's is a major advertiser on Nightly News and other NBC/Universal shows.  Ann Curry introduced the story by calling McDonald's coffee a "delicious brew".  More than a third of this story is comprised of excerpts from McDonald's commercials and interviews with McDonald's spokespersons.  This story is simply a commercial for McDonald's new gourmet coffees.  (So as not to offend another sponsor, Nightly News also gives Starbucks lots of good publicity in the story.)
* 5/12/09--A story purportedly about FDA assertions regarding Cheerios' health claims ends up becoming a fawning two-minute promotional message for Cheerios.  The report intentionally minimized the FDA aspect of the story and instead spent most of its time promoting the positive attributes of Cheerios.  This was correspondent Robert Bazell's first line: "It is one of America's iconic products--Cheerios."  Well, that certainly set the scene.  We were then shown 20 seconds of Cheerios commercials while Bazell tells us that, "Soluble oat fiber--a key component--can help reduce cholesterol."  In other words, Bazell just made the very claim that the FDA had expressly forbidden General Mills from making.  He then briefly interrupts his Cheerios love-fest to mention the FDA reprimand: "A letter from the FDA to General Mills, the manufacturer, says that the health claims have gone too far.  The big problem is those claims about how much cholesterol can be reduced in how many weeks.  They are repeated on the box.  The FDA says those are drug-like claims that can only be made after studies have been submitted to the agency and approved."  So rather than acknowledging that General Mills made inappropriate claims, he chooses to defend the claims as if they were mere technicalities.  As Bazell says this, he was sitting at a table with a bowl of Cheerios in front of him, and at least six boxes of Cheerios neatly stacked next to him.  He looks like he is in a Cheerios commercial.  Actually, he is.  Bazell continues, "In a statement, General Mills said, 'The science is not in question and we look forward to discussing this with the FDA and reaching a resolution.'"  The science is not in question!  Bazell does not take issue with the General Mills statement--he simply accepts it as fact.  The General Mills statement also appears on screen alongside a pleasing graphic of a breakfast table with a bowl of Cheerios, a box of Cheerios and a glass of orange juice.  We then see a close-up of milk being poured into a bowl of Cheerios.  There is a brief interview with a doctor who says that three grams of soluble fiber is not really going to help you, but that it's better than eating something that's high in fat.  Bazell then twists this statement into, "Food industry experts say there is no question that Cheerios is a healthy product but the FDA seems to be paying more attention to the claims that companies make."  No question!  Bazell's commercial--I mean news story--ends with boxes of Cheerios going by on a conveyor belt, a slow pan down a box of Cheerios, and a mother pouring some Cheerios for her toddler.  Can anyone dispute that this is a product placement?
* 7/13/09--The entire Nightly News broadcast is sponsored by the University of Phoenix, an online university.  Four days later, Nightly News airs a report about Western Governors University (also an online university).  This story features a gratuitous plug for the University of Phoenix as well as a prominent graphic displaying their logo.  It seems apparent that University of Phoenix's July 13 sponsorship also bought them a plug on the July 17 broadcast.
* 9/6/09--A story about search engines becomes a story mainly about Bing.  Bing is a Microsoft product, and Microsoft was a former partner of NBC in MSNBC and current partner in MSNBC.com.  This story is just a plug for one of NBC's corporate partners.
* 10/22/09--During a piece about women in the workplace, Nightly News spends 75 seconds profiling Jan Fields, the Chief Operating Officer of McDonald's USA.  The story gives her ample time to talk about things like McDonald's "world famous fries".  Ms. Fields is now the president of McDonald's USA--no doubt thanks in part to her ability to manipulate NBC News into allowing her to plug her greasy burgers and fries.
* 2/4/10--Brian Williams reads a 30-second story about the great new Heinz ketchup packages (he also manages to mention McDonald's in the story).  This is just a plug for Heinz.
* 3/17/10--Brian Williams reads a 30-second story about how Kraft Foods will be reducing the sodium in their products.  Another plug for a regular NBC advertiser.
* 3/19/10--Ann Curry (filling in for Brian Williams) reads a story about how Wal-Mart will be slashing their grocery prices.
* 5/14/10--In part one of a two-part interview with Sally Field, Brian Williams spends the entire 90 seconds talking with Field about her Boniva commercials (at the time, Boniva advertised on Nightly News every night).  Three days later, in part two of the interview, Brian again mentions Boniva.
* 6/8/10--Nightly News airs a report about an obscure Danish medical study that concluded that Aleve can reduce the risk of heart attacks.  Aleve is made by Bayer--a company that runs several ads each night on Nightly News.  Not to mention the advertising they do on other NBC shows and other NBC/Universal networks.
* 6/10/10--Brian Williams introduces a ridiculous "news story" about whether or not Chevys should be referred to as Chevrolets.  Clearly, this is a two-minute-and-ten-second thank-you to the Chevy people for all the advertising dollars they have given NBC over the years.
* 6/14/10--Lester Holt reads a "news story" about how Starbucks and McDonald's are now providing free Wi-Fi in their stores.  Interestingly, this is the second time Nightly News has paired these two companies in a fake news story whose sole purpose is to promote them as sponsors.
* 6/22/10--Nightly News shows a 30-second clip of Jimmy Fallon playing Microsoft's new Kinnect video game.  Again, since Microsoft is a partner of NBC, this is just another plug for one of NBC's corporate partners (and a plug for Fallon's show, as well).
* 7/2/10--A Nightly News profile of LeBron James includes clips from his McDonald's commercials.
* 7/21/10--Brian Williams contrives a "news story" about knee surgery in order to call attention to a new Nightly News advertiser--Smith & Nephew Replacement Knees.
* 9/24/10--In one of the most egregious examples of product placement, a story on the diminishing use of credit and debit cards for food shopping begins with a couple in a Target store standing in front of a massive wall of Cheerios that was almost certainly assembled by the Nightly News producers just for this story.  We also see the couple walking through the aisles with the Cheerios box and later the camera gets a clear shot as the box is scanned at the register.  The first 45 seconds of this story is a non-stop product placement for Cheerios.  (The last shot of the story is the mother feeding Cheerios to her infant.)  At the time, Cheerios was a frequent Nightly News sponsor and advertiser.  This story was a great big "thank you" to General Mills--unless, of course, General Mills paid NBC for the exposure.
* 10/27/10--Brian Williams reports an important story about how the Scott Paper Company is manufacturing tubeless toilet paper.  The story features plenty of ad clips from Scott products.
* 10/31/10--A story on the end of the Pontiac brand is really just some free advertising for General Motors.
* 11/4/10 and 11/5/10--Nightly News airs two virtually identical stories about a great new Spiral CT Scanner.  It just happens to be made by GE, NBC's then-parent company.
* 11/9/10--The broadcast airs stories about the end of General Motors' Mr. Goodwrench ad campaign and the new ad campaign beginning for Planter's Mr. Peanut brand.  Both stories contain lots of ad clips.
* 12/6/10--A story about the health benefits of aspirin is nothing more than a product placement for Bayer, a frequent Nightly News advertiser.  This "news report" begins with a five second clip from a Bayer commercial.  Then there are three close-ups of Bayer aspirin: A box on a shelf in a Walgreens, a pill in someone's palm and a bottle of Bayer.  No other name-brand aspirin is shown in the story, just generic or store brands.  Even an animated graphic of a bottle simply labeled "aspirin" is brown and yellow--easily recognizable as Bayer's traditional colors on their aspirin bottles and the main colors on their website.  Not very subtle.
* 12/7/10--A story about how San Francisco is banning toys that come with children's fast food meals begins with a cute segment about a woman who collects Happy Meal toys.  The rest of this 2:30 "news story" (which was really just a commercial for McDonald's) contains clips of actual McDonald's commercials and non-stop footage of the McDonald's logo, restaurants and food.
* 12/28/10--Brian Williams spends 30 seconds telling us the great news that Frito-Lay products will soon be "all-natural".  With the Frito-Lay logo behind him, he specifically mentions Tostitos, Sun Chips, Lays and Rold Gold pretzels.
* 1/5/11--Brian Williams spends 30 seconds telling us that Starbucks will be changing their logo.
* 1/17/11--Brian Williams announces that Starbucks will be introducing a new drink size called Trenta.  I guess Brian reports on Starbucks so often because doing so gets him free drinks.
* 1/20/11--Brian Williams tells us that Wal-Mart will be cutting prices on fresh fruits and vegetables and reducing fats, sugar, salt and trans fats in its store brands over the next few years.  This sounds like a press release written by the Wal-Mart marketing department.  Maybe it was.
* 2/7/11--Nightly News does a three-minute rah-rah story about Chrysler's "Imported From Detroit" Super Bowl commercial (featuring Eminem) that aired the previous day (the story features 80 seconds of clips from the ad).  This was little more than a three-minute commercial for Chrysler.
* 3/8/11--Brian Williams takes 30 seconds to tell us the important news that Subway now has more U.S. outlets than McDonald's.  So as not to offend McDonald's, he quickly adds that McDonald's earns more money than Subway.
* 4/5/11--Nightly News does a two-and-a-half minute "news story" about the Vermont Country Store.  This is a promotional story for a company that--despite its name--does $100 million in annual business.
* 4/6/11--Nightly News airs a 2:05 story about Pringles.  This may be the most shameless product placement Nightly News has ever done.  Then again--probably not.  The story begins with Brian Williams plugging some Procter & Gamble brands--Tide, Crest and Pampers.  We are then shown clips from Pringles commercials--including one that featured Brad Pitt.  We get to see a Pringles-related clip from "Ally McBeal".  But mostly, we get to see correspondent Kevin Tibbles having a great time with Pringles.  Just like Brad Pitt!  There's Tibbles sitting with two cans of Pringles.  There's Tibbles with a math professor who explains that the exact shape of the chip is a hyperbolic paraboloid.  There's Tibbles holding a Pringles chip up to the camera.  Then we see some clips of other P & G products--Tide, Gillette, Oral B and Wella.  The story ends with 15 seconds of various closeup shots of Pringles.  And the very next night--surprise--a Pringles commercial airs on Nightly News.  I guess the Pringles people bought a combo news-story-and-ad package.
* 5/9/11--Brian reads a 30-second "news story" about McDonald's great new redesign plans for their restaurants: "Mickey D's is spending over $1 billion to make their restaurants more chill, more comfortable, more laid back--more Starbucks than Mayor McCheese.  Look for wooden tables, muted colors and faux leather seats coming soon to a Mac's near you.  And you can get fries with that."  That's not a news story, it's a McDonald's press release. And it's shameless.  Notice how Brian slipped in a Starbucks mention, as well.  What is it with Nightly News anchors pairing McDonald's and Starbucks in product placement stories?
* 5/18/11--Brian personally defends McDonald's against criticism from parenting organizations and nutritional advocacy groups that accused McDonald's of unfairly using Ronald McDonald to attract children to their high-sodium, high-cholesterol, high-fat food.  In the story, Brian says that this criticism "seems a little harsh".  So much for anchor neutrality.
* 7/26/11--Brian read this 30-second press release from McDonald's: "McDonald's said today that it's taking steps to make Happy Meals healthier.  The company is cutting the size of the french fry portion in half for starters and adding apple slices to every meal.  The new meals will have about 20% fewer calories--coming in at under 600 calories total.  First Lady Michelle Obama, who campaigns, of course, for better nutrition, put out a statement today calling this a good step."  It was clear that Brian and his producers meant to imply that Mrs. Obama was endorsing McDonald's--which, of course, she was not.  (As Brian read this, the McDonald's logo is onscreen for the entire thirty seconds, along with the words "Healthy Choices" and a picture of a Happy Meal.)
* 9/20/11--Brian Williams takes 30 seconds to tell us all about Heinz's exciting new ketchup packages: "There's a new fast food staple coming our way after years of fighting with the old ones.  Heinz is out with a new vessel for fast food ketchup.  It's shaped differently, it opens differently, contains three times the amount of product in the old packets.  They're already being used at some Dairy Queens, Wendy's gets them later in the year--no comment yet from the really big players--McDonald's and Burger King."  The accompanying video shows plenty of promotional footage of people using the new Heinz packets.  (I'm surprised that Brian didn't conduct a live in-studio demonstration.)  Why does that sound familiar?  Oh yeah--it's because Brian already told us about the new Heinz packages on the 2/4/10 Nightly News.  I guess Heinz must have paid NBC News for two product placements.
* 10/27/11--The lead story is about the health benefits of aspirin as a cancer-fighting drug.  This story is virtually identical to the 12/6/10 story on aspirin.  In truth, this is just another 2:40 product placement for Bayer.  Like the 12/6/10 story, this story features only one national brand of aspirin--Bayer.  All the other aspirin brands are generic or store brands like CVS or Sunmark.  The story also shows two vintage Bayer newspaper ads and just for good measure, it features an 8-second clip from a current Bayer TV commercial.  This story is a joke.  It is nothing more than a shameless way to plug Bayer aspirin.  And the fact that they showed it as the lead story is even more shameless. The message is obvious--buy Bayer aspirin and you won't get cancer.
* 11/17/11--Right in the middle of a story about Congress's decision to categorize pizza as a vegetable, correspondent Anne Thompson takes a ten-second break to read a McDonald's commercial.  With a huge McDonald's logo next to her, Thompson tells us that, "McDonald's got the message--reducing french fries and adding fruit to its happy meals."  This has absolutely nothing to do with the story about pizza being a vegetable--it is just another opportunity for a Nightly News correspondent to shill for the Golden Arches.
* 1/29/12--A story about fast food restaurants that stay open late is really just another product placement for McDonald's.  This story contains more than a minute's worth of gratuitous McDonald's footage--interiors, exteriors, franchise owners, customers, workers, food--and even includes an extended shot of correspondent Mike Taibbi standing in front of a McDonald's in a way that clearly displayed the McDonald's name and logo.  And just to make sure we didn't miss the point, Taibbi then tells us that, "McDonald's now has 40% of its restaurants open 24 hours--up from 30% seven years ago."  That statement--and the entire report--sounds suspiciously like a commercial.  Obviously, the Nightly News producers' goal in running this story is to inform the viewers that McDonald's has new extended hours so we should rush out later and get some of those delicious Big Macs, Quarter Pounders and fries.
* 2/6/12--Brian spends more than two minutes fawning over the Clint Eastwood "Halftime In America" Chrysler ad that aired during the Super Bowl.  He calls it "a big, sweeping and impactful ad."  He shows us 45 seconds of the ad, including a 30-second continuous clip.  But don't let Clint Eastwood's appearance in the ad fool you.  Brian Williams is Chrysler's chief spokesperson.
* 3/4/12--Lester Holt took 30 seconds to tell us that Nabisco's Oreo cookies are celebrating their 100th birthday: "And this week a big birthday for a classic American snack. The Oreo--known as milk's favorite cookie--turns 100.  The National Biscuit Company rolled out the first Oreo from a New York City bakery in 1912.  Today, the crème-filled chocolate sandwiches are sold in 100 countries earning $1.5 billion a year.  By the way, Kraft, which owns the brand, says half of Oreo lovers pull the cookies apart before eating them.  So now you know."  We certainly do know--that Lester Holt is a shill.  (Obviously, as Lester was reading this, we were shown clips of Oreo commercials and multiple other shots of the cookies.)
* 5/1/12--Brian tells us that Fig Newtons (another Nabisco product) will now simply be called Newtons.  As Brian read this important story, the screen above his left shoulder displayed a package of the cookies.
* 5/22/13--At the end of a story about an app that displays eating habits, Brian said, "Graphic evidence of your potato chips, your Mallomars, your Haagen-Dazs."  Mallomars.  A Nabisco product.  So that's three stories/mentions of Nabisco cookies in less than three months.  Nabisco must have bought the deluxe product placement package.
* 6/11/12--During a story about thefts of household products (like detergent) from supermarkets, correspondent Miguel Almaguer holds up a bottle of Tide for a total of 16 seconds.  Maybe he was auditioning to be a spokesmodel.
* 6/23/12--A story about Detroit's recovery features extensive footage from inside the Quicken Loans headquarters, as well as interviews with employees and the company's CEO.  Six days later (6/29/13), a Quicken Loans commercial popped up on Nightly News.  Can you say "quid pro quo"?
* 8/20/12--During a report about Rosie O'Donnell's heart attack, Brian volunteers the information that, "She finally took a Bayer aspirin--the way she learned in the TV commercial."  Using Rosie O'Donnell's heart attack to promote Bayer is beyond unethical.  But Brian Williams jumps at any chance to promote a good Nightly News sponsor (Bayer usually advertises three of four times a night on Nightly News).
* 10/17/12--In a Nightly News story about vitamins, Brian Williams specifically mentioned Centrum Silver.  Centrum is manufactured by Pfizer--a regular advertiser and sponsor on Nightly News.
* 11/25/12--Nightly News spends 2:30 on a story titled "Inside Amazon".  Obviously, this flattering story is nothing more than a long-form commercial for Amazon.
* 11/26/12--A story about holiday sales includes a 45-second look inside the Amazon sales & distribution center in Phoenix.  Two Amazon stories in two days.
* 12/1/12--A story about hiring seasonal holiday help includes profiles of eBay, UPS and--no surprise--Amazon.  Three Amazon plugs in a week.  I hope Jeff Bezos got his money's worth from Brian Williams.
* 12/4/12--After a story about the makeover of the iconic Hollywood sign, Brian Williams makes sure we know that it was "Thanks to a new coat of white pain--400 gallons worth--donated by Sherwin-Williams."
* 12/6/12--Brian Williams spends 30 seconds shamelessly promoting Procter & Gamble's new Tide for Men: "Get ready for Tide for Men--it works the same as the regular Tide but it's being marketed towards male buyers.  Here's how they do that--they put a football player on the label hoping men will but it.  Even though a lot of us buy Tide on our own without assistance, they figure Saints quarterback Drew Brees will help sell the new Tide plus Febreze Sport with Victory-Fresh Scent.  Even though the scent of a post-victory NFL jersey would knock a buzzard off a telephone pole at 500 yards."  In case you're wondering--that wasn't a commercial, it was a news story.  I especially like the part where Brian tells us that "a lot of us buy Tide on our own".  That takes it from a regular endorsement into the realm of a personal endorsement.  Well done, Brian.  And saying the entire name--"new Tide plus Febreze Sport with Victory-fresh Scent" is the hallmark of a seasoned pitchman.  Ed McMahon couldn't have done it any better.  I'm surprised Brian didn't refer to Drew Brees as "Drew FeBrees".
* 12/13/12--At the end of a story about the 12/12/12 concert for Hurricane Sandy relief, Brian plugs the Robin Hood Foundation--an organization on whose board he sits.  A little self-promotion never hurt anyone.
* 12/18/12--Again Brian plugs the Robin Hood Foundation because he sits on their board.
* 12/19/12--Brian informs us that GM will open a new Camaro plant in Michigan.  Brian always makes sure to plug American car makers.  Because he's just a red-white-and-blue kinda guy.
* 12/30/12--Nightly News ends with a 2:52 story on the new "Les Miserables" movie.  The movie is produced by Universal--an NBC/Universal company.  But of course neither the story's reporter nor anchor Kate Snow disclosed that little fact.
* 1/2/13--Nancy Snyderman reports a story about fructose that includes ad clips from the weight-loss drug Alli (made by frequent Nightly News advertiser and sponsor GlaxoSmithKline).  The story also includes clips from Weight Watchers and Lean Cuisine ads.
* 1/6/13--Nightly News reports a story about "Downton Abbey" entitled "Downton Fever" without ever disclosing that the show is produced by Carnival Films--which is owned by NBC/Universal.
* 1/10/13--Brian tells us that in the UK, McDonald's Happy Meals will now come with a book.  As he tells us this, images of McDonald's products appear on screen for 20 seconds.
* 1/11/13--In a story about the naming rights for the former Grauman's Chinese Theater in Hollywood, Brian slips in a gratuitous mention of Tostito's.  Tostito's are made by Frito-Lay, a major advertiser and sponsor on NBC and NBC/Universal-owned networks.
* 1/14/13--Nightly News runs a "news story" about how Coca-Cola is fighting the recent backlash over sugary drinks.  More than half of this story (1:20 out of a total 2:15 run time) is comprised of Coke ad clips and product placements of Coke products.  It should be noted that the story was "reported" by Chris Jansing whose main job at NBC News seems to be using sham news stories to promote NBC sponsors.
* 1/17/13--Brian spends 30 seconds telling us all about American Airlines' new look and logo.  If there's anything Brian likes plugging as much as the U.S. auto industry, it's the U.S. airline industry.
* 1/17/13--Immediately after the American Airlines story, Brian spent another 30 seconds reporting the important news that the Subway foot-long sandwich was measured at only 11 inches.  Of course, this was only an intro that allowed him to then tell us that "millions of people know that $5 jingle on the Subway commercials", that they have "38,000 locations", and that "It's their staple--they have offered a foot-long sub since the first Subway opened its doors back in 1965."  I suspect that next time Brian goes on vacation, Nightly News will be anchored by Subway pitchman Jared Fogle.
* 1/22/13--A story about milestones that happened 40 years ago that week included the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision.  The Nightly News producers somehow felt it was important to include an inappropriate comment that had been made a year earlier by Foster Friess, a supporter of presidential candidate Rick Santorum.  On the subject of birth control, Friess said, "In  my day they used Bayer aspirin for contraceptives--the gals put it between their knees."  It's laughable to think that Friess's comment had any relevance to the anniversary of Roe v. Wade.  Clearly, this was just a cheap excuse to give Bayer another mention on Nightly News.
* 1/31/13--During a story about the Justice Department's attempt to block a merger of AB InBev (owner of Budweiser) and Corona, we were shown 12 seconds of Budweiser ad clips.  Considering all the advertising money Budweiser spends on NBC and NBC/Universal stations, I think the producers should have shown at least 25 seconds of Budweiser ad clips.
* 2/1/13--In a fawning, pandering three-minute story about Animal Planet's Puppy Bowl (reported by Brian Williams himself), Brian positioned himself on the Puppy Bowl field in just the right way to allow maximum visibility of the Geico logo.  Not an accident.
* 2/4/13--In a story about the previous day's Super Bowl commercials, Brian showed ad clips from Dodge, Budweiser, Best Buy, VW, Coke, Taco Bell, GoDaddy and Hyundai.  The 2:08 story featured 58 seconds of actual ad clips.
* 2/17/13--A story about Michael Jordan turning fifty included 13 seconds of Nike ad clips.
* 2/27/13--Brian reads a 25-second story about how Wonder Bread is "Making a Comeback".  The story is accompanied by shots of Wonder Bread, Hostess Donettes and Twinkies.
* 3/8/13--A story about mothers urging Kraft to remove orange dye from its Macaroni & Cheese got this intro from Brian: "They say Kraft Mac & Cheese is the cheesiest..."   And here's how he ended the story: "Kraft says the product is safe and healthy and they offer a multitude of products without added colors."  The Kraft Mac & Cheese logo and commercial clips were on-screen for 18 of this story's 29 seconds.
* 3/15/13--Brian read a story about how the new Notre Dame basketball uniforms--made by Adidas--were among the ugliest in sports history.  Not only was this a plug for Adidas, but also for Notre Dame, whose football games are carried on NBC.
* 3/18/13--Brian eagerly informed us that Burger King would soon be offering turkey burgers and that McDonald's would be offering egg white McMuffins.  He made sure to tell us that "fast food gets incrementally healthier".  This is news?  Brian never gets tired of shilling for fast-food companies.
* 3/22/13--In a story about how some libraries are offering seeds, the logos of DuPont, Dow, Monsanto and Bayer (naturally) appear on-screen.  By the way--the story was sponsored by Citi.
* 3/27/13--Here's how Brian began a 40-second news story about a Honda minivan that comes equipped with a vacuum: "This is for all those who fed endless quarters into those car wash vacuums rooting out Cheerios under the car seats--hard as rocks the little guys.  They then ricochet through the vacuum hose along with pennies, gravel and Skittles.  Honda has figured out a way to make a minivan that comes with its own built-in vacuum cleaner..."  Plugging Cheerios, Skittles AND Honda in the same story?  That's like a triple play!
* 3/30/13--Dimwitted correspondent Katy Tur did an entire 2:20 promotional news story about Peeps--the marshmallow Easter candy.  Part of her instructions for eating them included, "Bite the head off first...", "Nibble all around the sides...", "Stick the whole thing in your mouth at once..."  Kind of sickening, to say the least.
* 4/1/13--A story about elderly people driving longer mentioned a study by Hartford Insurance--which was accompanied by the company's large on-screen logo.  Later, in a report about April Fool's stories, we were shown logos or clips of Scope, Honda, Twitter, Google and Boden clothing.
* 4/5/13--Continuing in his role as chief propaganda spokesman for the entire fast-food industry, Brian read this breaking news story: "There's marketing news in what USA Today calls an astonishing brand reversal--KFC is about to go big on boneless chicken.  If you like a bucket of chicken, you know you'd never think to say 'boneless' when ordering it but now they're betting on the new Original Recipe Boneless in what brand experts say is the biggest new product introduction for KFC in modern times."  The story was accompanied by many shots of KFC products and clips from KFC commercials.  It's hard to imagine that KFC didn't pay NBC to have this "news story" read on-air.  This certainly confirms Brian's status as the biggest pitchman (and scumbag) on television.
* 4/8/13--During an obit for Annette Funicello, Anne Thompson (who is pretty weaselly in her own right) made sure to show a clip from Annette's old Skippy Peanut Butter ad.
* 4/19/13--After an interview with several employees from a Boston restaurant located at the Marathon finish line (who were working when the Marathon bombing happened), Brian said, "Our thanks to the staff at Forum--a good place to stop on Boylston Street next time you're in town."  As if he's ever been there.
* 5/1/13--In a story about the increase in sales of American cars, Brian specifically plugs Dodge Ram, Chevy Silverado and Ford F Series pickups.
* 5/6/13--This was quite a day for promotion (and self-promotion).  First, Brian read a story about how the Medal of Honor Society awarded its Citizen Honor Medals to the families of the teachers who were killed at Newtown.  Brian frequently reports on the Medal of Honor.  In fact, every time a MOH winner dies, Brian reports it as if it were a real news story.  Of course, one reason he does this is because he's a fawning, flattering, sycophantic military ass-kisser who fantasizes about being in the military.  But what Brian never discloses is that he sits on the Board of Directors of the Medal of Honor Foundation.  And the MOH Foundation relies heavily on donations from the public.  So by reporting frequently on the Medal of Honor, Brian is actually focusing attention on the Foundation with the goal of increasing their donations.  He's shamelessly using his broadcast to indirectly solicit funds for an organization on whose board he sits.  That's a clear conflict of interest.  And it's grossly unethical.  But Brian doesn't care.  He's Brian Freaking Williams and he gets to do whatever he wants.  About 7 minutes later, Brian read a story about how Pfizer will begin offering Viagra for sale on the web as a way of combating all the bootleg Viagra already being sold.  Of course, Pfizer is a huge Nightly News and NBC sponsor and advertiser, so by reading this story, Brian was really just giving some free publicity to one of his corporate pals (up to this point, Pfizer had sponsored nine different Nightly News "Making A Difference" segments in 2013, most recently on March 28).  During the story, Brian made sure to slip in this nugget: "Pfizer--the folks who make the real stuff."  Okay--I think we get it Mr. Pfizer Spokesperson.  And later in the broadcast, Brian reported that Bill Clinton had tried (unsuccessfully) to get Led Zeppelin to reunite for the 12/12/12 concert.  Obviously this isn't news, but it once again allowed Brian to plug the Robin Hood Foundation--another corporation on whose board he sits.  So on one broadcast, Brian managed to plug Nightly News sponsor Pfizer as well as two organizations on whose board he sits--the Medal of Honor Foundation and the Robin Hood Foundation.  That's a pretty successful day for Brian Williams.
* 5/24/13--In a story about inappropriate comments made by billionaire Paul Tudor Jones, Andrea Mitchell inserts a gratuitous plug for the Robin Hood Foundation.  Clearly, the Nightly News correspondents like to keep Brian happy.
* 6/1/13--Usually, Robert Bazell uses his stories to promote NBC advertisers like Cheerios or Bayer.  But on this day, he took a slightly different tack.  Bazell reported a story titled "Cancer Breakthrough" about the successful treatment of lung cancer and several other types of cancer through a procedure known as immune therapy, which causes white blood cells to attack and destroy cancer cells.  The story focused on research and treatment being done at Yale Cancer Center and featured an interview with the Center's Dr. Roy Herbst.  Anyone watching this story would certainly get the impression that Yale is at the forefront of cancer research, which it is.  However, Bazell  neglected to disclose one very important fact: Later this summer he will be leaving NBC News because he has accepted a position as an adjunct professor in the Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology at Yale University.  So by doing a Nightly News piece about Yale, Bazell used his current position as a news correspondent to promote his future employer.  Sleazy.
* 6/4/13--NBC Nightly News' chief medical editor Dr. Nancy Snyderman reported a story about the benefits of sunscreen as a skin protector and anti-aging agent.  The report began with a clip from a Bain de Soleil ad (including the familiar jingle "Bain de Soleil for that Saint-Tropez tan").  Later, the camera panned across a studio array of seven bottles of sunscreen, including three bottles of Coppertone--which were prominently placed in front of the others.  Both Bain de Soleil and Coppertone are owned/manufactured by the pharmaceutical giant Merck.  Eight minutes after Snyderman's story aired, Nightly News ran a commercial for Dr. Scholl's P.R.O. arch support inserts.  Dr. Scholl's is also owned by Merck.  Hardly a coincidence.  (Let's not forget that on 1/2/13, Snyderman plugged Glaxo.)
* 6/4/13--Brian spends 24 seconds telling us that Amazon will begin selling fresh food and groceries.  I don't think anyone can argue with the fact that Brian Williams has a personal mission to promote Amazon.
* 6/7/13--A story about a recently-discovered 50-year-old bomb shelter showed close-ups of some well-preserved products still inside--Reynold's Wrap, Saran Wrap, Dixie Cups, Baggies and Kleenex.
* 6/7/13--Nightly News ends with a 2:33 story on the Belmont Stakes--a race that would be carried on NBC the following day.  What's the point of having a news broadcast if you can't use it to promote your network's sports and entertainment programming?
* 6/9/13--In a story about gas prices, several of the price billboards shown included ads for McDonald's and Subway.
* 6/14/13--Kevin Tibbles' report about low wages in the fast-food industry began with a 10-second clip from a McDonald's commercial.  That's hardly surprising.  Tibbles and his producers knew that the story was unflattering to the fast-food industry, which as a whole spends huge sums of money each year advertising on NBC and the NBC/Universal networks.  So Tibbles and his producers went out of their way to throw a big bone--in the form of some free advertising--to the industry's largest player.  Tibbles also spent 20 seconds acting as a mouthpiece for the National Restaurant Association--explaining their position that fast-food restaurants provide jobs in a difficult economic environment and that "the industry is one of the best paths to achieving the American Dream".  During the story, Tibbles interviewed two fast-food workers who were unhappy with their low wages, but refused to specifically disclose where either person works.  Rule #1 at Nightly News: Protect your sponsors at all costs.  Nice job, Kevin.