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December 16, 2019

Advertising Masquerades as Program Content on TV Talk Shows – Part 4

Filed under: Health — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:44 am

While flipping the channels recently, MrConsumer came upon a Dr. Phil episode where they were talking about Medicare advantage plans. For the uninitiated, these are health insurance plans that substitute for original Medicare and pick up the balance of the costs that original Medicare doesn’t cover. Most plans throw in some extra benefits free like eye exams.

Please watch the four-minute segment below.



What most viewers may not have recognized is that this entire segment was really a commercial masquerading as a conventional Dr. Phil interview on his program. He introduces the guest as a licensed insurance agent and spokesperson for MedicareAdvantage.com . (Note that “Medicare advantage” is the generic term for a particular type of insurance policy.) Does that introduction put you on notice that you are in essence watching an infomercial or that the program was paid to have her as a guest?

Some additional disclosures pop up during the segment, but they relate to the average savings and limitations of these plans. In the final 15 seconds of the segment a hard-to-read fine print disclosure comes up on the screen.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Dr. Phil disclaimer

It says “MedicareAdvantage.com is owned by sponsorship partner TZ Insurance Solutions, Inc. … Paid endorsement…. Dr. Phil does not recommend or endorse any particular plan…”

Again, has any of this put average viewers on notice while they were watching the interview that this really was a commercial? We think not, and a two-second “sponsored in part by MedicareAdvantage.com” slide in the closing credits comes too late in our view.

We asked both the Dr. Phil show and CBS’s Senior Vice President of Program Practices whether they believed the minimal disclosures the program made at the beginning of the segment were enough, and what was CBS going to do now to improve notice to viewers given that this is the second time we pointed out the issue. (See our original story calling out The Talk for airing a commercial segment masquerading as traditional program content.) The CBS executive did not respond, but a spokesperson for Dr. Phil said:

“The integration partner and spokesperson were appropriately identified both at the time the segment ran and in the end credits.”

We disagree. As a viewer, you are entitled to know upfront if you watching a commercial or a bona fide interview segment where the participants did not pay to appear on the program. We hope both the FCC and the FTC start clamping down on television programs that pass off advertising segments as regular interview segments.

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6 Comments

  1. This unethical practice is now far too common. I agree with Mr. Consumer that the average viewer wouldn’t notice or read such disclaimers at the bottom of the screen. One of the lessons is this. Whenever you see hazy, fine print at the bottom of a screen, make sure you take advantage of that wonderful feature on your remote control: the pause button. Then, carefully read it.

    Comment by Dan Kap — December 16, 2019 @ 7:54 am
  2. Everything. About. Dr. Phil. Is. Dishonest!

    He exploits people (see the whole teen pregnancy lower third in that video) and is completely insincere. Everything he does and says is pre-plan and scripted. See how he just happens to stop next to the audience member with the question and how unnatural her questions were?

    Assume everything he does is for money. Nobody should be watching this trash.

    Comment by Pierre — December 16, 2019 @ 8:42 am
  3. They’re called a program(ing) for a reason. I went TV free in ’15. That may be too severe for some, but not for me. There is more than enough entertainment/info via the internet. $44.00 bucks a month for unlimited, high-speed from Frontier isn’t a bad deal. Naaaah, this is not an infomercial. Just fact.

    Comment by Marty — December 16, 2019 @ 9:39 am
  4. I have watched His show twice? And I cannot figure out why I did? Never the Less I think it’s a crazy mixed up Show where they sell Beauty JUNK!!

    Comment by Robert Benzing — December 16, 2019 @ 11:16 am
  5. Edgar, unfortunately this also happens in the Spanish channels as well, every time my parents watch “Oscar Haza” daily at 7 pm central time channel name: Mega TV (direct tv) I cringe because i keep telling her about this sneaky practice. Moreover, there are other shows within the same channel that participate in this practice, but I cannot recall their name and times. Perhaps these marketers think that’s an untapped, and too dumb to realize audience. Perhaps it’s something to look into.

    Comment by enrique — December 16, 2019 @ 3:23 pm
  6. I was incensed by that segment. At the end of the show some comment was made about going to drphil.com to comment his shows. I did, but could find no way to comment. I am glad you were able to follow up on this.

    Comment by John Woodward — December 16, 2019 @ 4:24 pm

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