The non-transparency of media is related to the issues of native advertising and content marketing. Katerina Tsetsura and Kelsie Aziz, both of University of Oklahoma, surveyed 287 members of the Public Relations Society of America on media transparency practices.
According to the results, media bribery is not a pressing issues in the United States. New forms of content creation, such as native advertising and content marketing, cause some ethical concerns related to non-transparency.
Media outlets rarely have policies related to receiving samples, free gifts or discounted material from news sources. Also, less than half of the respondents working in PR reported their company had a policy for gifts.
The study finds that indirect media bribery is common at the local and regional media levels, and is a serious concern for public relations practitioners who work with local media. Indirect bribery at the local level is evident in especially the following forms:
- not news-worthy news release are published in exchange for paid ads
- advertisements produced to look like news articles
- content not clearly labeled as advertising
- and advertising sales putting financial pressure on media outlets.
The researchers call for creating standards to ensure forms of sponsored content are properly disclosed on media platforms. Overall, professionals of both journalism and public relations need to work together to ensure media transparency is not being sacrificed, they conclude.
The article “Toward professional standards for media transparency in the United States” was published in Public Relations Review and is available online (free abstract).
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