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KVBC-TV accuses local competitors of selling commercials disguised as news

KVBC — Las Vegas’ channel 3 — has filed a complaint with the FCC charging that three of its competitors sold airtime within their newscasts and used reporters to present the advertising content disguised as legitimate news stories.

The stations accused of the illegal practices were KVVU (Fox), channel 5; KLAS (CBS), channel 8, and KTNV (ABC), channel 13. KVBC, owned by Sunbelt Communications, has asked the FCC to investigate the stations for violation of its sponsorship identification rules.

It is very rare for television stations to charge other stations with misconduct before the FCC.

KVBC’s FCC complaint charges the violations occurred between May 22 and June 22. It charges that the three stations “knowingly entered into agreements and understandings with Arrowhead Advertising ... and United Dodge Chrysler Jeep ... for the production and airing of advertisements in the form of on-site interviews promoting the liquidation sale of cars whose franchise had been cancelled by Chrysler.”

“These interviews,” the complaint charged, “were inserted into the regular programming of the stations in the guise of ‘news interviews.’ These ���news interviews’ were aired repeatedly without any disclosure that they were aired in consideration for the purchase of regular spot schedules.”

KVBC said one of its own advertising representatives was told by an Arrowhead representative that “if you cannot guarantee the news coverage, you won’t get that buy.”

Dominic Monahan, an attorney for Channel 3’s owner, filed the complaint on behalf of the station. He said the station had gathered a convincing case against the stations including copies of an e-mail exchange concerning an attempt to do the same deal with KVBC. Channel 3’s ad executive told Arrowhead that his station could not guarantee placement because it was against the law.

“For stations to purposely contract and agree to include lengthy promotional clips and pass it off as legitimate news is an egregious breach of their obligation to the viewing public as well as a blatant violation of the sponsorship identification law and rules,” KVBC’s complaint said.

The three stations and Arrowhead Advertising denied the charges. KLAS said it is preparing its own filing with the FCC demonstrating that news coverage is “determined solely by news management.”