When Jetstar made a so-called exclusive appearance on Australia's channel 7's morning show, Sunrise , it caught the attention of the ABC's Media Watch program. The riveting Sunrise "interview" challenges the fuzzy line and blurry interpretations between a sponsored advertisement (or infomercial) and true editorial/news content.
The painful three and a half minute interview, headlined as 'JETSTAR'S BIG NEWS', was acted out between Jetstar's Bruce Buchanan and Sunrise's Natalie Barr - a news presenter, and not a host of the program- suggesting to the viewers that it was in fact news, despite playing out like a cheesy 3am infomercial.
The exclusive piece certainly wasn't newsworthy enough for a featured interview, and the story was by no means exclusive since it played out via various media outlets the day prior.
The Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice (as legislated by s.123 of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 ) states that "[a] commercial... must be readily distinguishable by viewers from program material".
If this was a paid advertisement, Sunrise was obligation to declare it, particularly since both parties have a sponsorship agreement.
Media Watch emailed Jetstar querying the news value, exclusivity, and the commercial nature of the segment. Sunrise's Adam Boland replied with an email (PDF 176KB) stating that, "... although Jetstar is a well known sponsor of Sunrise, the interview was not part of any commercial agreement. It was pitched in the normal way and accepted on editorial grounds. We consider airfare wars - particularly on Australia's busiest route - to be of significant interest."
Jetstar did not respond to Media Watch.
As Media Watch points out in the attached video, the Code of Practice says that "... commercials must be distinguishable from program material... but there's no rule that says program material can't look and sound exactly like a commercial" - as long as it isn't paid for.
There's no denying that this infomercial was presented in defiance of the code, amounting to no more than cash for comment ". Although the segment may not have been paid for directly, there's no way of determining (beyond the transparent sales pitch) if this (and other) interviews aren't part of the sponsorship deal - in writing or otherwise.
When any brand participates in this kind of consumer deception, you have to question the brand's integrity. One does have to wonder if this kind of
bullshit marketing untruth and consumer fraud makes its way into other areas of the organisation's marketing department.
Originally published on the now retired Martinetics in August 2009.