Tulsa World reporter Kim Archer found that the state of Oklahoma paid a media conglomerate $3 million in exchange for advertising of the state insurance program on two local TV affiliates, including spots that appear to be news segments.
David Griffin, president and chief executive officer of Oklahoma City-based Griffin Communications LLC, said the company believes in transparency.
“We don’t sell the news. We never have, and we never will,” he said. “The spots that run match up to our commitment to Insure Oklahoma.”
Archer reported that the sponsorship agreement was disclosed on air, and quoted a news director who compared it to the relationship between newspapers and their advertisers.
The media spots, featuring former local television reporter Angela Buckelew, “blend seamlessly into the newscasts of KOTV and KWTV, with Buckelew acting as reporter and telling the individual stories of employees of small businesses who have benefited from the subsidized health insurance plan.”
“This kind of question arises when news media organizations try to diversify, when they are looking at more ways to make money,” said Joey Senat, associate professor of media law at Oklahoma State University. “It does create the potential for unethical behavior.”