Monday, October 27, 2008

Statements Outline Telemarketing Campaigns For Videos

Originally published June 26, 2006 in the South Florida Business Journal.

Doctors, lawyers and a variety of businesses say they were pitched by Boca Raton video companies to pay thousands of dollars to have their businesses included in videos featuring Michael Douglas.

Several say they thought the videos would be on PBS stations, but public television ultimately rejected the programs as not meeting its standards. The companies named as defendants in a suit are all in the same building at 370 W. Camino Gardens Blvd.

Among those making the pitches was Theodore Ritter, who gave a statement saying he answered a ad to be a television producer with Paradigm Media Group (PMG).

He was given a script and told he would get a 20 percent commission on $23,100 underwriting fees.

"Certain portions of the script were altered in the version I received. For example, the contact information for 'Family Television Studios' was replaced with the contact information for Paradigm Media Group," he said.

A copy of the script was given to the court as an exhibit.

The script said underwriters would get a "high-end custom 6-8 minute demo tape (with Michael Douglas on it)..."

The underwriting companies were told it would be distributed to all 349 PBS affiliates.

PMG's goal was to close 50 transactions a month, Ritter said Bill Klump, who hired him, told him. Doing the math indicates that would generate $1.15 million in revenue.

Thousands for a sponsorship

Robert Ryniak, a software developer for Ingenuware Ltd., said another PMG employee called him in August to have his company included in "Learning About ..." if he paid thousands of dollars for a sponsorship.

Ryniak said he was told the program was for public television, which he assumed to be PBS. He checked the PBS Web site and found a disclaimer that it had no affiliation with the show or any of the Boca Raton companies.

Ryniak said he called PMG and questioned its solicitation practices. A PMG representative said its failure to clarify that there was no affiliation was not misleading.

Sharon Gardner, an attorney at the law firm Crain, Caton & James in Houston, said she was called by Infinity Media Group and solicited to sponsor a segment on end-of-life decisions and living wills, featuring Douglas.

Gardner also said she thought the series was for PBS.

She received a May 4, 2005, letter, describing the series and a $22,900 underwriter's fee.

Gardner's firm paid more than $15,000 to Infinity, but never received a copy of the segment, filmed Jan. 10, she said.

Douglas' attorneys also drove home the point about PBS. One filing said that Family Television issued a March 16, 2005, press release about Bio Tech Medics signing a contract.

"The 'Learning About ...' educational series is distributed to all 349 PBS stations in all 50 states," the press release stated. "The series has an expected reach of 30 plus million households."

In a May 13, 2004, letter, Family Television said the series was "scheduled for satellite uplink to all 349 public television stations beginning in November [2004.]"

However, there wasn't a distribution agreement until the following September, when WXEL in Boynton Beach signed on as the host station. But that agreement was short-lived.

Jerry Carr, president and CEO of WXEL Public Television and Radio, said both the National Educational Telecommunications Association (NETA) and American Public Television rejected the show as not complying with public television standards and practices.

In November, Carr wrote a letter to Bill Hough, the CEO and executive producer of PMG, to say the agreement was void because the series did not meet public television standards or FCC regulations. Terms in the contract allowed it to be canceled under those conditions.

Uplink doesn't guarantee broadcast

As for claims about where the show might air if it was uplinked, Gayle Loeber, head of programming for NETA, addressed that in a statement.

"There is no guarantee that a program, which is scheduled for satellite uplink or which is actually uplinked, will ever be broadcast," she said.

There is also no service to track when and where the short educational programs air, Loeber said. They are not listed in schedules and aren't tracked like ads on commercial television.

Loeber said she was contacted about "Learning About ..." by Scott Nurik, who said his New World Television was affiliated with a number of similar past and present companies engaging in the same business, including WJMK and Paradigm Media Group.

In December, The Business Journal reported that WJMK is a video production company owned and operated by Mark Kielar, who was embroiled a couple of years ago in a controversy involving Walter Cronkite that was written about in The New York Times and Time magazine.

Cronkite and WJMK exchanged lawsuits over a breach of contract issue that was settled.

Kielar was then listed on a state Web site as registered agent of 370 West Camino LLC, which owns the building. State Division of Corporation records show the property now has a new registered agent, James H. Batmasian, a Boca Raton property owner.

A look at the cast of companies, officers, registered agents
Video central

Attorneys for Michael Douglas used state records and witness statements to argue that "defendants are merely some of the related companies operating from the same building," 370 W. Camino Gardens Blvd., in Boca Raton. The companies are:

• Defendant: Family Television Studios
• Defendant: Paradigm Media Group LLC (doing business as PMGTV or PMG Television)
• Defendant: Infinity Media Group
• Not listed as defendants: United Media Communications Group, Global Television Studios and WJMK (which share a suite with Family Television), Profiles in Business and Mediaworks Television Studios

Company officers

A Business Journal search of state and court records found the following officers or registered agents associated with video companies at 370 W. Camino Gardens Blvd.:

Tim Visser signed the settlement as president of Family Television and is also associated with Profiles in Business and Mediaworks Television Studios. He is also an officer for New World Television, at 2244 Glades Road, No. 342A, in Boca Raton.
Mark Kielar is listed for United Media, WJMK, Acts Capital Investments LLC, Serenity Bay LLC, Black Mountain Ranch LLC and the nonprofit Cross TV, all at 370 W. Camino Gardens Blvd; and the nonprofit Cross International Aid, at 600 S.W. Third St. in Pompano Beach.
William Hough signed the settlement as an officer of Paradigm Media Group. (State records show the registered agent is Ambassador Management Group Trust, 2929 SW Third Ave., Suite 320, Miami 33129.)
Wali Waiters signed the settlement as an officer of Infinity Media Group.
John M. McGuire is listed as CEO of Global Television Studios and Patricia A. McGuire is listed as VP. Their mailing address in state records is 2150 N.W. 10th St., Delray Beach 33445

Link to original article here

Actor Michael Douglas sues Paradigm Media Group

Originally published in the South Florida Business Journal February 28, 2006 by Kevin Gale...

Actor Michael Douglas sues Boca Raton companies

Actor Michael Douglas on Monday filed a federal lawsuit against two Boca Raton video production companies, alleging they offered him a position as host of an educational show that turned into an infomercial with ads for Mrs. Fields cookies, Hershey's candy, Wells Fargo online banking, TurboTax and other products.

The lawsuit, seeking more than $75,000, is against Family Television Studios (FTS) and Paradigm Media Group (PMG) of Boca Raton. A Dec. 30 Business Journal article reported the Public Broadcasting System said in the "frequently asked questions" part of its Web site it had no affiliation with the two production companies and others that were pitching a show featuring Douglas.

The lawsuit said a May 13 letter by Edie Gershon of FTS offered Douglas a job hosting a television series called "Learning About...." The letter, attached as an exhibit to the suit, described FTS as "a family-owned and operated national television production company that produces primarily high-end educational television for national distribution on networks such as Discovery Channel, The Learning Channel and public television."

The lawsuit alleges, in reality, FTS produces commercial programming including infomercials and advertising.

The Business Journal has left a message seeking comment from Gershon.

The letter said the show was "scheduled for satellite uplink to all 349 public television stations beginning in November of this year [2004]," but FTS didn't have an agreement with WXEL - television's channel 42 and radio's 90.7 FM - to do so as presenting station until Sept. 26, 2005.

Nov. 21, WXEL notified PMG the contract was null and void because the series violated Federal Communications Commission regulations and PBS guidelines and regulations for public television.

The suit said the series "amounts to nothing more than thinly veiled infomercials" and the defendants "always intended the series to air on commercial television stations."

One of the likely issues in the litigation appears to be the status of the agreement between Douglas and FTS.

The lawsuit states Douglas' assistant and director of public relations, Allen Burry, hand-wrote changes to an agreement that gave Douglas approval rights over the use of his name and likeness to promote the series.

The suit said FTS has denied the existence of the provision.

Douglas' attorney then wrote, on Dec. 20, there was no binding agreement because FTS never signed and returned one that was fully executed.

The lawsuit said the defendants, on Jan. 10, faxed a letter to Douglas' attorney with a copy of the agreement that failed to include all the hand-written notations.

The suit also says that FTS claimed Douglas replaced Mary Tyler Moore as the host of another television show called "Simple Living," but Douglas never had an agreement to do so.

An Aug. 10 episode of "Simple Living" aired on the Bravo network. The show featured Douglas five times in openings, closings and segues using footage shot for "Learning About...."

"Douglas, as the apparent host of the series, appears to be endorsing the products featured on the infomercial," the lawsuit states.

The Business Journal reported in December that FTS and PMG are in different suites at 370 W. Camino Gardens Blvd. Another occupant in the building is WJMK, a video production company owned and operated by Mark Kielar, who was embroiled a couple of years ago in a controversy involving Walter Cronkite hosting a program written about in The New York Times and Time magazine. The two parties settled after suing each other.

A television series host agreement attached to Douglas' lawsuit says the actor would provide services to WJMK, including taping of segments. The agreement says WJMK would pay Douglas $1,000 an hour for additional taping time.

Kielar and WJMK are not named as defendants in the suit involving Douglas.

Link to the original article here

Friday, October 10, 2008

Broward-Palm Beach New Times Article June '03

How Much Does Credibility Cost?
Boca Raton video producer Mark Kielar signed Cronkite, Brown, and Safer to host thinly veiled advertisements -- until the deal fell apart By Wyatt Olson
Original Article Published on June 12, 2003 in The Broward-Palm Beach New Times

In the journalism world, hawking goods is a sin approaching that of plagiarism. So when the New York Times reported in May that a Boca Raton video-production firm had hired three of the most recognizable newsmen in America as pitchmen, the upshot was malodorous publicity all around.
It all started early this year when WJMK Inc., which produces short "educational" videos for public television, signed former CBS news anchor Walter Cronkite and CNN's Aaron Brown to introduce segments of its medical-themed series American Medical Review. They were replacing 60 Minutes' Morley Safer, who had worked for the company for four years, appearing in hundreds of videos.
This was just the latest of the 17-year-old company's big, ambitious projects, according to WJMK publicity. "With cutting edge content, award-winning producers, and network-quality production," says the company's website, "WJMK features issues that have impact both nationally and internationally, and features interviews with some of the most prestigious names in the industry."
In a photo posted on the website, there's Cronkite himself, radiating authority in a black jacket and crimson tie. The acronym AMR, for American Medical Review, is posted on the wall behind him, and a television screen beside him flashes the name of the health-related series, for which Cronkite is touted as the "host." An accompanying bio trumpets the 86-year-old former CBS news anchor as the "Most Trusted Man in America."
But last month, the deal started to unravel. On May 7, the New York Times reported that the American Medical Review series appeared to be thinly veiled ads for corporate sponsors. According to the Times, the sponsors of the videos, often pharmaceutical companies, have broad discretion in editing the tapes, providing the raw information, and having final-cut rights before broadcast. In effect, the pharmaceutical companies were paying for the credibility of major news figures, in at least one case shelling out a six-figure fee to Safer for a single appearance, the New York Times said.
The report sent Brown and Cronkite scurrying for cover. Both have now sought to distance themselves from WJMK, which is owned by Mark Kielar, a controversial South Florida businessman and born-again Christian who has a long, litigious history, including complaints of sexual and religious harassment from female employees. Cronkite and Brown have both formally terminated any relationship with the company, with Cronkite demanding that the company remove any reference to him on its website.
For Cronkite, Brown, and Safer, as well as for ABC's John Stossel, who appeared in earlier WJMK-produced videos, it was the kind of situation that could undermine careers. "In order for journalists to maintain their objectivity, they have to remain free of commercial interests," explains Jill Geisler, a former TV news director now on faculty with the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg. "Clearly, you do not see Peter Jennings endorsing products. You don't see Dan Rather with the Nike swoosh on his blazer." The WJMK controversy, of course, revolves around a more subtle form of advertising, she says, but it underscores an Achilles' heel in television reporting. "In broadcast journalism," Geisler says, "we sometimes use the producer approach in which a recognizable journalist may not have done any of the research himself."
A spokeswoman for Cronkite says the revelations about corporate involvement in the project have removed any contractual obligation on Cronkite's part. "The contract, as far as we are concerned, has been breached," she said. Brown and his bosses at CNN said the same, asserting that "WJMK is not sufficiently independent to satisfy the editorial standards of CNN or Aaron Brown." And a CBS spokesman reportedly said that Safer had determined that working for WJMK was not consistent with CBS News standards.
According to critics, the company's aura of public service, its use of well-known spokesmen, even the company's name have allowed WJMK to assume a mantle of credibility that disguises a more mercenary agenda. "I think what they're doing is very clever," one local television program director says. "Do I think it's deceitful? I mean, to name your company four letters that don't make a word, beginning with a W, well... " The company charges about $15,000 to produce two- to five-minute shorts, which have medical experts talking on television news sets about health issues, according to the New York Times.
The brains behind WJMK is the Massachusetts-born Kielar, 43, a 1981 graduate of Bryant College in Smithfield, Rhode Island, where he majored in marketing. Once describing himself as "socially aggressive" in his younger years, he is now a high-energy Christian proselytizer. Kielar recently named Jesus as his hero and declared that if his house were burning, the first item he'd get out after his family would be his Bible.
Kielar responds irately to the article in the Times, from which he has demanded a retraction. "It's just a smear job, basically," he sniffs.
In 1983, Kielar moved to Fort Lauderdale, where he worked as an investment broker, and in 1986, he founded WJMK, one of the first television-production companies to form after federal deregulation of the broadcasting industry in 1985. Lately, he, his wife, and their five children have been spending a lot of time spearfishing. In 1998, as described in a New Times story, Kielar and Bob Coy, pastor of Calvary Chapel in Fort Lauderdale, launched Cross TV, a Christian cable station. It's still a Kielar property, though he and Coy have ended their partnership because of "doctrinal" differences.
Having weathered accusations of sexual harassment, Kielar is usually reluctant to talk to reporters. But the recent bad publicity makes it hard for him to keep mum, he says.
Kielar contends that the contract Cronkite signed was different from previous ones with, for example, Charlton Heston or Stossel. The provisions were vetted by a former attorney for the Public Broadcasting System to ensure that they were "public-television compliant," Kielar says. Cronkite's segments were to have been created from raw footage the company had collected while shooting promotional videos for various companies for a fee. "We create independent stories that are public-television compliant about technology or information," he says. "They don't mention companies by name. It's not an endorsement in any way. That is what Mr. Cronkite was associated with." Funding for the series comes from underwriters independent of the subject, he maintains. For example, a cruise line might underwrite a segment on heart surgery.
However, recent New York Times stories, citing contracts between WJMK and video sponsors, said the companies were allowed to re-edit scripts and give final approval of finished segments.
Among some of his former WJMK employees, the handsome, athletic-looking Kielar can allegedly show a far less pious image than the Bible-loving company president likes to display in public. For example, Laura Bailey, Miss University of Miami in 1984, filed suit in 1991 (two or three years after Kielar was born again) contending that Kielar and top managers showed an X-rated Christmas-party video in which Kielar and other managers dressed up as women employees and simulated sex, according to the Palm Beach Post. In one scene Kielar, dressed in leather and depicting Bailey, allegedly pretended to masturbate. He then portrayed Bailey, who was working for WJMK as a marketer, giving oral sex to a man in a blond wig, the Post reported. During the party, Kielar and others encouraged a manager to drop his pants in front of the sales staff. The manager did so, exposing "his entire genitalia," the Post wrote.
Bailey dropped her suit in December 1992 after signing a confidential settlement with the company.
More recently, two former employees charged that Kielar's religious fervor went too far in the workplace. Rozanne Sonneborn asserted in a lawsuit filed in January that after the company discontinued direct deposit, it began giving employees paychecks in envelopes along with quotations from the Bible. Sonneborn, who is Jewish, objected. She was terminated a couple of months later. She was told that it was part of an economy-driven downsizing, but she contends it sprang from her objections.
Michelle Subwick filed a similar civil complaint in April, claiming she was fired after refusing to attend in-office Bible studies, where she had witnessed another employee being accused of having allowed Satan to "infiltrate" her life. Kielar fired Subwick in 2001, telling her that she was a victim of "spiritual warfare" and that "getting fired was a blessing and was God's will."
Kielar declined to comment about the two lawsuits. But he is philosophical about his loss of Cronkite as a spokesman. "You can't blame Walter Cronkite," he says. "For 65 years, he's never endorsed a single product. We knew that and understood it, and we made sure we weren't in that ballpark."
Even if WJMK eventually produces the series, the company, given its record, faces a skeptical reception. Steven Weisberg, program director for WLRN-TV (Channel 17), South Florida's public television station, says that WJMK's past offerings have been discussed among PBS decision-makers. He has declined to run them on WLRN. "It just seemed to be the consensus that the material was suspect of being free from commercial influence," he says. "It's like the definition of pornography: You know it when you see it."

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Two Times Articles, Two Companies, One Pitch...

This New York Times article about Boca Raton based company Vision Media Television (V Media TV) was published in August of 2008. The similarities between Vision Media Television's pitch and that of now defunct tv production company WJMK, chronicled in an article published in the Times in 2003 are uncanny. From initial invite to be featured in a segment, to the revelation that the "featured guest" must pay the production costs, to the inaccurate claims regarding the level of exposure the client will receive, to the deliberate confusion the companies create about their affiliations (or lackthereof) with PBS, the similarities are striking.

Let's start at the very beginning, a very good place to start...

Cronkite fights ‘masquerade’ that trades on his reputation
Originally published in Current, Feb. 23, 2004 By Jon Kalish

In November 2002 Jeff Cronin got the first of several telephone solicitations from WJMK Inc., a television production company in Boca Raton, Fla. Boy, did they call the wrong guy.
The pitch to Cronin started a sequence of events that revealed the questionable practices behind a supposed public TV program in a New York Times expose, embarrassed some of the most revered names in TV news, and sparked a pair of multimillion-dollar lawsuits.
Cronin, director of communications for the Center for Science in the Public Interest in Washington, D.C., said the pitches had “the same the aggression as a boiler-room telemarketing fraud.”
The first caller said he was a producer working on a PBS series with Morley Safer, the CBS correspondent. CSPI, the nonprofit where Cronin works, had been selected to be featured on American Medical Review, the caller told him, and Cronin could put the program on the air by paying an underwriting fee.
“I felt like I was on the receiving end of a scam,” Cronin told Current. “I recognized it as totally bogus. . . . At one point, when I raised concerns about paying for the privilege [of being featured in a broadcast] and whether this would be appropriate for public TV, the producer said, ‘I can assure you that Morley Safer wouldn’t lend his name to anything that wasn’t above board.’”
To Cronin, the pitch may have sounded like telemarketing, but WJMK tried to hide the sound of other producers calling pros-pects, a former employee told Current, by running a white-noise generator in the room.
Cronin started researching WJMK on the Web and soon concluded that the company presenting itself as a journalistic enterprise was really dishing out paid advertisements, including advertorials for pharmaceutical companies.
“One of our concerns,” Cronin says, “is that — to the extent these things end up on the air — consumers would be clueless that the medical information they were being exposed to was being bought and paid for by a drug company with zero disclosure,” Cronin says.
Cronin relayed his suspicions to New York Times reporter Melody Peterson, who wrote an expose of the company’s practices published in May. Walter Cronkite, hired by WJMK a few months earlier to replace Safer as host of the short filler programs, denounced the company and severed ties with it.
WJMK sued Cronkite in September for quitting as host, and Cronkite countersued for $25 million in November, charging the company used him “as a lure to solicit customers to fund advertorials and infomercials that masquerade as objective news stories.” Cronkite asked the court to permanently enjoin WJMK from using his name or likeness “in any video or otherwise.” [Disclosure: Walter Cronkite is a member of the board of Thirteen/WNET, New York, which administers Current.]
Judging from evidence turned up by Cronkite’s lawyers, the business model of WJMK Inc. closely resembles that of another Boca Raton company. In 2002, Current and public radio’s On the Media reported on Multi Media Productions USA Inc., producer of another advertorial module for public TV, World Business Review, hosted by another famous retiree, Alexander Haig.
The two production companies in Boca Raton didn’t spring up independently. Thomas Clynes, head of Multi Media, had known WJMK Chief Executive Mark Kielar in college and worked for him before starting his own company, according to a former employee who declined to be named. Bryant College in Smithfield, R.I., confirmed that both men graduated with bachelor’s degrees in business administration — Kielar in 1981 and Clynes in 1982.
In its Sept. 17 breach-of-contract suit against Cronkite, WJMK declared that the Times article and Cronkite’s public pronouncements severely damaged its “business reputation, relationships and financial well-being” and caused the “destruction of WJMK’s relationship with PBS.” (PBS said it has had no contractual agreement with WJMK and stressed that the production company is “not affiliated with PBS programming.”) The company said in court papers that the bad press caused the cancellation of contracts by 13 of WJMK’s clients, including Genzyme Genetics, Abbott Laboratories and Overeaters Anonymous.
Cronkite’s legal team expects to begin depositions of WJMK executives within a month. In late January, U.S. District Judge Gerald Lynch denied three motions by WJMK and Kielar, including motions to dismiss Cronkite’s countersuit and to drop Kielar as an individual defendant in Cronkite’s suit.
WJMK accuses Cronkite of “misrepresenting the type of programming that WJMK was planning on producing.” The company insists its programs complied with PBS standards. In a November 2002 letter soliciting Cronkite’s participation, WJMK assured the former news anchor that Barry Chase, a former associate general counsel and v.p. for programming at PBS, was brought in to ensure that WJMK’s television series “met the strictest public television standards and practices.” Chase, now an attorney in private practice in South Florida, confirmed for Current that he once did consulting for WJMK but would not comment on any matters concerning his former client.
Both Kielar and WJMK’s counsel, Joe Curley, declined to be interviewed for this story, but the company did send e-mail responses to questions from Current. WJMK said the Times “falsely reported the essential facts surrounding the television series being produced for public television by WJMK” and asserted that the Cronkite-hosted segments were never broadcast.
The company said that Cronkite’s attorneys engaged in “bullying tactics” and were “attempting to intimidate anyone and everyone who is trying to simply do the right thing and complete the series.”
Attorneys for the 86-year-old television legend have demanded that WJMK stop using his name and picture to promote the company, but as of last week its website featured a photo of Cronkite captioned “our current host.” Pictures of Safer and Cronkite appeared with the headline, “Producing shows with journalistic integrity hosted by award-winning journalists.”
Gerald Singleton, a Cronkite attorney, said if WJMK’s suit fails and the judge rules the company doesn’t have a right to use Cronkite’s name and likeness, WJMK is risking “substantial damages” by continuing to keep Cronkite’s name on the website.
Trading on public TV’s name, too
The website says WJMK produces noncommercial, educational “news breaks” from footage acquired from the corporate videos it produces. The interstitial modules, designed to plug holes in the broadcast day, carry several series titles: American Architectural Review, American Business Review, American Environmental Review and American Medical Review.
WJMK has told potential clients that the short-form TV segments it produced and then offered to public TV stations around the country could reach tens of millions of American homes. In a draft agreement sent to a prospect and obtained by Current, WJMK said its American Medical Review newsbreaks are “reaching 30+ million households and typically airing during peak and primetime programming.”
But in a handout titled “Common Questions About the American Review Series Projects,” the company concedes the actual extent of carriage is impossible to verify. “Because the stories are utilized as interstitial programming, exact air dates and times cannot and will not be provided by any station or network in reference to any story,” the handout explained.
That point is echoed by PubTV Online, a data company that collects information on program carriage for public television. The short modules don’t register in its station carriage data, according to PubTV Online. Cronkite’s counterclaim asserts that “WJMK knows ... that few, if any, of its programs ever air on PBS or public television stations.”
Hosting the modules was quick work that paid well enough to attract several network stars. According to news reports and a copy of Cronkite’s contract filed with legal papers, WJMK paid the retired news anchor $50,000 for two four-hour days of work last spring. He taped 15- to 30-second generic intros, segues and closes in New York City.
Before Cronkite took the hosting gig, CBS newsman Safer appeared in hundreds of the company’s videos produced over four years. Safer decided to cut his ties with the company because its work wasn’t up to CBS News standards, according to Kevin Tedesco, a spokesman for CBS’s 60 Minutes. WJMK also signed ABC News correspondent John Stossel as a host in 1998, but Stossel asked to be released from his contract the following year.
The company later hired CNN’s Aaron Brown to appear in videos resembling newscasts. CNN okayed the deal, but Brown backed out after the Times published its expose.
Was it appropriate for journalists to take these hosting jobs? Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, a research institute affiliated with Columbia University’s journalism school, said: “I would have a lot more problem with them if they were defending doing it, but once they found out what was going on they stopped working for them. It appears as if this company [WJMK] misrepresented what it was doing.”
Cronkite’s contract stipulates that his work not be used for any commercial purposes, something the veteran newsman has insisted on throughout his career.
Bought and paid for
Cronkite’s suit, in which he seeks both compensatory and punitive damages, argues that WJMK violated both PBS standards and FCC regulations by failing to disclose that it had received money from third parties whose products or services are featured in its reports.
In April the company agreed to receive a $15,900 “pre-production/scheduling fee” from Abbott Laboratories for a module about the pharmaceutical company, according to a copy of a “production authorization” agreement obtained by Cronkite’s attorneys and submitted in court for his suit. The agreement gave the drug company the right to review and edit scripts as well as review the “final edited video prior to release.” Under the contract, WJMK Inc. would produce a 2- to 5-minute TV story, as well as a 6- to 8-minute demo tape for the Abbott website.

Link to the original article here

Saturday, September 27, 2008

An Introduction....

Have you been contacted by a TV production company that wishes to "feature" you in a segment they are producing for PBS? Does this testamonial sound familiar?....

"Thanks for the heads up! They contacted me regarding my mineral cosmetics company. Their angle was outrageous. They originally stroked my ego by saying they found my website & read what I wrote about healthy cosmetics & the dangerous ingredients in cosmetics & were interested in my appearing in a educational documentary series with Hugh Downs about the dangers in cosmetics & my healthy cosmetics. He told me they would like me to be a GUEST speaker for a DOCUMENTARY which was being hosted by Hugh Downs. He said it was a series THEY are producing for public education which would be broadcast on public television called The National Report. He completely had me convinced it was a public educational documentary & they were approaching me because of my "expertise" on cosmetic safety issues.He asked me questions as if he was interviewing me to see if his company actually would consider me as a viable candidate for this guest speaker position they were looking for. In the end he said that he was satisfied that I was exactly what they were looking for but that I must realize that this was NOT ADVERTISING. He stressed repeatedly that I would have to be OK with the fact that my company name would be mentioned however the "project" they are working on is not an infomercial or advertisement for my products in any way. He said it was merely a public service announcement telling people about how my company works to promote safety in cosmetics, not about our products specifically. I was fine with that.Then he lowered the boom with the price that I would pay for their production services. I thought, wait a minute, this is YOUR PROJECT, you invited ME to be a GUEST speaker. You must be joking!He slipped up by telling me that they market the series to public television station as well as overseas to Europe & others. He name dropped like crazy. He told me that a famous publisher of a book on cosmetic safety is overseeing the project, which I won't mention to keep her name out of this scandal. But the main point is, he told me it was a legitimate documentary project for public education that his company was producing. He stressed it was not anything about advertising my company or speaking about my products but only about giving educational information to the public about their health & safety when using cosmetics. Why should I pay their costs for filming THEIR project? I mean does Sesame Street tell the parents of the kids who will be appearing as guests on the show that they have to pay for the entire show to be produced just because their kid is going to get some exposure from it? Well that is how RIDICULOUS his proposition was. Furthermore, this thing about Hugh Downs hosting the series is another farce. They somehow employed Mr. Downs to film ONE intro clip & exit clip that is very non-specific & generic in his language. They simply paste the exact same intro & closing remarks onto your film, and everyone's films, with the pretense that it is some educational series. I was told that the documentary I would appear in may be shown on CNN between breaks on prime time shows with Lou Dobbs & Nancy Grace & others.......... When a LEGITIMATE production company who is shooting a documentary contacts someone they would like to make a GUEST appearance in their documentary, the legitimate company has already paid for their own production costs & are in the process of producing the show. The guest is never asked to pay to produce a show even if it is a biography on themselves. A guest is a guest not a client.You can see guest appearances everywhere. From your local news stations to prime time talk shows or even on public television. Those guests do not cover the costs of producing those shows. Not unless the show is their idea & they HIRE a production company to produce something for them, but then they are not a GUEST on their own show either. Every night on David Letterman guests appear. They certainly are not EVER asked to pay the show's production fees! Trust me they get plenty of global exposure for FREE! In fact, in a great many cases the guest is the one who is paid for their appearance & the exposure is merely a perk of appearing. Case in point... did Hugh Downs PAY ..... for the production fees for his intro & closing clips? NO WAY. Mr. Downs was PAID. ....... Sorry guys, but your story just doesn't wash. You would have had a much closer chance at getting me to buy your product if you would have been upfront & told me the real deal. If my marketing budget for my small little company did have 23k to throw away it may have been fun. But paying your production fees for a public service announcement that is YOUR PROJECT & you are going to sell the films to television stations & make a profit... no way! That's insane. I was contacted again to say that I must be confused & that they in no way market the films we pay them to produce. Wow, that's an about face from everything he originally told me to get me hooked. If I want a film clip for my website or educating my employees I'll shoot one myself! It's not like a video camera, a backdrop, some lighting & a couple of chairs is going to cost you 23k! Most of all, he repeated at least ten times that it IS NOT ADVERTISING and that I had to be ok with my part being simply to offer facts about cosmetic safety to the general public. So don't give me that bull about I should know that advertising costs money. Yeah I know that. I hang up on advertising sales calls that get past my assistant every day. This was just their way of avoiding my hanging up on them. It's called "bait & switch". They play on your ego, flatter you, & tell you they really NEED your expertise. You take the bait then they drop the bomb that you are supposed to pay them for needing you so badly...... This is clearly a very clever & elaborate con game. I'm so glad that I never commit to anything without researching it thoroughly. Thanks for this opportunity to share my experience so others don't fall for it. Really, if you are selling custom media marketing videos just say so. Telling me I can help you save the world from dangerous chemicals in cosmetics is really below the belt. Our company works to educate people not to use products with chemicals & nanoparticles so they won't get cancer & diseases from those products. Playing on that altruistic quality in my company to scam money from us is downright disgusting. "

There has been a great deal of media attention of late regarding TV production companies in and around Palm Beach and Broward Counties in Florida, in particular Boca Raton, Ft Lauderdale, Deerfield and Delray Beach. It has been suggested in some media outlets that some of these companies engage in misleading and fraudulent business practices. I thought it important to have a place on the web to consolidate the abundance of available information about these companies. I also felt there should be a forum for people who've done business with or been approached by them to recount their experiences. In addition, I will post links to pertinent articles and public records.
Initially, I will cut and paste testimonials from other websites to get the ball rolling and give those who've been solicited an example of what will transpire. I have no doubt that, with time, many will leave comments about their own experiences but until that time I want to give information seekers something to reference.
One of the accusations made by many business owners who've dealt with these companies is that they claim they are affiliated with organizations they are not, including PBS. They dispute this, saying that clients interpret public television to mean pbs. The misunderstanding is apparently common enough to warrant a mention in the FAQs section of PBS's website.

Q. Does PBS have any affiliation with programs produced by Vision Media Television (or VM Television)?

Q. I've been contacted by a TV producer who claims that he will feature my company in a national public television program in exchange for a fee. Is PBS aware of this?

A. A number of businesses have contacted PBS to ask us about our relationship with the producers of various television programs carrying titles such as Giving Back, Learning About, and The National Report Series. According to representatives of these businesses, the producers have offered to feature the representatives' businesses in a television program and indicated that the program will be made available on national public television. Based upon representations made to them by the producers, the businesses were led to believe that the producers were associated with PBS and that PBS intended to distribute or otherwise endorsed their programming. PBS wishes to clarify that it is not associated with and does not endorse, distribute programming for, review underwriting for or otherwise have any business relationship with the following production companies: VM Television, Vision Media Television, Paradigm Media Group, PMG, PMGTV, Infinity Media Group, Roadshow Productions, Family Television Studios, United Media Communications Group, American Review TV, Business Break TV, Event Media TV, or Global Television Studios. PBS does not oversee the production or distribution of any programs associated with any of these companies. If you are solicited by a production company that claims or implies an association with PBS, please notify PBS.

More to come....................