The Whole Truth

Some people still blame Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand for many of the rules and restrictions on broadcasting we now have which never existed years ago. If you worked in radio during that era – and claim that you never did any of the following, you either have a very selective memory, or you’re lying :

– selecting a competition winner because they sounded more enthusiastic than another caller.

– reading out, on air, made up emails or comments in order to stimulate more phone calls and interaction.

– reading out questions live and then playing pre recorded answers from an “expert” or celebrity from a tape or CD.

– handing over to a reporter “live” on location, who’d actually recorded the piece some hours – or days – beforehand.

To non-broadcasters, and perhaps those under the age of 35, many of the above might seem surprising, or even shocking. But they were once as common as smoking in the office or having a cheeky three pints at lunchtime before nominating the most sober of your colleagues to go and read the 2pm news.

We are, of course, living in a different era now. Everything has to be open and transparent. Mostly. And yet, some PR agencies still send me material which, if used, would be just as deceiving as any of the above examples. Or would it?

Take this one. Brian May. A famous guy. And which Queen fan wouldn’t want to know about the smash musical We Will Rock You coming to Anytown Arena? Ideally, we’d like to interview Brian on the air. But instead, his people have chosen to send out a syndicated interview – in print. That’s helpful then.

So who on earth would use such material and present it as their own? Maybe the local newspaper? After all, quotes are quotes. Nobody would ever know if the journalist had done the interview. Where’s the harm? Unfortunately for them, our local paper has missed the bus on this one. And quite literally. Because apparently our local bus company has managed to get there first.

Actually, I have to say hats off to Trent Barton, for managing to shoe horn a ticket offer in its blog article. And whilst this kind of interview has been knocking around airline magazines for years, I’ve not see the technique being used by a bus company through its social media channel before. But it creates a problem for other outlets – like the local paper – who run the risk of now publishing an identical article.

The syndicated interview also restricts coverage to print or online. And – due to impartiality rules – even recorded clips from Brian May himself would be unlikely to make it to air, certainly on BBC outlets. But it’s still interesting to see how the blogosphere appears to be oblivious to referencing its sources. No mention that they didn’t do the interview themselves.

But hey, what the audience doesn’t know won’t hurt them, right?

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