Fox 32 barely admits pay-for-play news

Fox 32The whoring out of local television news continues without letup — this time courtesy of Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 32.

Thursday’s “Good Day Chicago” featured a satellite interview with actress and model Shari Belafonte, who turned up to hawk a diet pill called Qsymia. Presented in the form of a Q&A with news anchor Natalie Bomke, the segment was paid for by biopharmaceutical company Vivus Inc., which hired Belafonte to promote the weight-loss drug.

Good Day Chicago“The idea that there’s now something that’s on the market that’s FDA approved that can help people who are overweight such as Qsymia is tantamount,” Belafonte said. “Patients in particular need to know that they can go to their doctor and ask about it.”

When it was over, Bomke mentioned that the interview with Belafonte was “sponsored by the pharmaceutical company Vivus Inc.”  But to most viewers, I suspect, it came off as anything but a commercial.

Unmentioned in Bomke’s brief disclaimer, of course, were any of the numerous side effects the drug could cause, including (according to its website) birth defects, increases in heart rate, suicidal thoughts or actions, serious eye problems, mood changes and trouble sleeping, concentration, memory and speech difficulties, increases of acid in bloodstream, low blood sugar, possible seizures, kidney stones, decreased sweating and increased body temperature. Or that it can be abused or lead to drug dependence.

These days practically every satellite interview on “Good Day Chicago” is sponsored by somebody selling something. But this one was about as shameless as they get.

Dennis Welsh

Dennis Welsh

On the other hand, it shouldn’t come as a surprise considering it’s the same station that condoned a contributor who boasted about free stuff she got from companies she promoted on the morning show.

Instead of lecturing viewers about the evils of Illinois politics while seated on a throne or constantly wagging his finger about this or that government entity being “at the tipping point,” imperious general manager Dennis Welsh might want to examine the ethics of his own news operation. Disguising commercials as news is no way to foster credibility.

The latest lapse comes two weeks after Tribune Broadcasting WGN-Channel 9 preempted the final half-hour of its morning newscast to air a government-sponsored infomercial about health insurance. In that case, the segment was “completely independent of the newsroom,” according to news director Greg Caputo.