Breaking News(?): Frank Mitchell Had Eye Surgery

At what point does a news broadcast end and the advertisements begin? In the UK this is fairly clear, usually the broadcaster will say something along the lines of “back after the break/these adverts”… in America, it can be a narrower border, it is common practice for private companies to sponsor part of the news broadcast, for example “And now with the weather sponsored by [Insert Company Here]…” In Northern Ireland, perhaps this discussion is needed.

The advertising standards agency has adjudicated in the past on cases where an advert is not made clear, and in recent years the “product placement” symbol is being seen more and more on our televisions. But what about the internet? What about our main news sites? Today, UTV hosted under the “Top Stories” section of their news website, a story entitled, “Frank Mitchell ‘glad’ he had laser eye surgery.” From a writing stand point, this is unusual, because the “headline” references “Frank Mitchell” in the third person – the article appears to be written entirely by Frank Mitchell himself, with numerous references to “me,” and “I.”

When you are on the “Top Stories” section of the site, and cast your eyes down from story to story, sandwiched between an article on a car being destroyed as a result of an arson attack and a tragic story of an elderly man who drowned in Wexford, is the “Health” story regarding Frank Mitchell’s eye surgery. And yes, it says “Sponsored” next to health… but is that enough?

Frank Mitchell 4

 

UTV have been the subject of the news as well as creators recently, with word spreading that the broadcasting television wing of the business in Northern Ireland is for sale (UTV Media owns other outlets, including Talksport), it also announced last week a 90% drop in pre tax profits.

Frank Mitchell 1

 

The top of the article shows the headline, then between the headline and the opening paragraph is the word “Sponsored” in smaller font than the rest of the story text. Assuming you, like myself, tend to jump to reading an actual article instead of the minutiae of the date stamp or the news category, you would find yourself with no clue this is an advert.

Frank Mitchell 2

 

And even when you reach the bottom of the article, again, seemingly written by Frank Mitchell himself, in the first person…

Frank Mitchell 3

 

The author of the article even offers advice for anyone “wearing specs” to “get it [this procedure] done” – there we have an article on a news website, written be a weatherman actually recommending to readers that they should also pay to have the same medical procedure undertaken upon themselves.

And also it is worth acknowledging that at no point after the “Sponsored – Health – [Article Date]” byline, has it mentioned A: that this is not a news article and is in fact a paid advert but through the medium of a recognisable face to the audience of UTV, one who they might expect to see on this website imparting actual news or information, and B: if the author, Frank Mitchell, received any kind of incentive to write the article. One assumes that UTV have been paid by Optilase for the advert, but the actual author of the article (and recipient of the procedure), what financial exchange between the company and himself exists, does this arrangement leave him in a position of integrity when it comes to recommending people “Wearing specs,” pay for this procedure to be undertaken on themselves?

The advertising standards agency has come down hard in recent years on advertising subterfuge, with the advent of social media the line has been blurred on what an advert is or isn’t. This however, is an advert… masquerading as news, on a news site, written by a recognisable figure from the news.

A cursory search shows that this is the second time this same article has appeared in the “Top Stories” section of UTVs website, back in June was its premiere.

http://www.u.tv/News/2015/08/31/Frank-Mitchell-glad-he-had-laser-eye-surgery-44019

http://www.u.tv/News/2015/06/17/Frank-Mitchell-glad-he-had-laser-eye-surgery-39284

 

*Authors note – this article was written entirely by myself with no incentive from any other persons or companies – I benefit in no way financially or materially from the publishing of this article. The view is my own, the article is my own.

 

  • Brian O’Neill

    As the poor sod tasked with the task of trying to get some income in for Slugger I sympathise with U.tv

    It is incredibly difficult getting ad revenue for websites. I doubt any NI site gets enough ad revenue to cover their costs. Users have ad blindness or ad block turned on so this type of sponsored content will get more common.

    These sponsored posts work very well for thejournal.ie, as long as they are clearly marked I don’t have an issue with them. Ironically Kris you have just giving the good people at Optilase more free advertising 😉

    This is were I insert a reminder that you can advertise on slugger from only £50 a month http://sluggerotoole.com/about/advertise-on-slugger/

  • Doesn’t the “SPONSORED” give it a way?

  • Newton Emerson

    It says “SPONSORED” in the headline.
    Good for UTV, and for Frank. Someone has to find a way of making online news pay, otherwise the future of journalism is a BBC state monopoly plus the likes of Belfast Barman, recently famed for retweeting reports of the Sunflower Bar being attacked without realising they were two years old.

  • 23×7

    You’ve missed the point. The issue is the clear and deliberate blurring of the lines between news and advertising. In this case it’s dangerous because eye care is a health issue.

  • Kevin Breslin

    This is shocking, seriously I can’t believe my eyes, maybe I should get some too!

  • Kevin Breslin

    Yes, And if anyone does see blurring between the lines in their newspaper they might opt for a photorefractive keratectomy anyway.

  • Newton Emerson

    OH THE HUMANITY,

  • 23×7

    Witty. You should take up journalism.

  • Janos Bingham

    Is this a case of ‘dry your eyes’?

  • murdockp

    His name’s not even Mitchell, you have all be duped for years.

  • gendjinn

    Meooow.

  • Sharpie

    Wait until he tries to work references into the weather forecast:

    where are we today? It’s a place where you (or I) could choose (or not choose) to lie around and do nothing –
    yes weather watchers its opt-e-laze

    Maybe he’s been doing product placement for years – all those villages have been paying him to have them on the weather!

  • Belfast Barman(ager)

    Famed Newton? I haven’t started putting it on the business cards just yet. And that’s not at all what happened re: sunflower bar Emerson, but I wouldn’t expect you to let facts get I the way of a good monologue.

    If UTV want to have paid content,more than fine – but the word sponsored is in the smallest font in the article, next to the date and time – obviously a focal point that readers make sure to observe.

    Also there’s a difference between paid for content, and content written by a news broadcaster, who has a private business arrangement with the company but isn’t made clear in the article. Severe lack of integrity on that part.

  • Sergiogiorgio

    I’ll sponsor a head transplant for Julian Fowler.

    He frightens my cat.

  • kalista63

    “Ireland will never be free until Frank Mitchell can use his real name”, Gerry Anderson.

  • kalista63

    Then there’s that wee issue when the BBC have you the el ow, Newfon.

  • Seamus O’Connor

    Its interesting he says he relies on his eyes for his work and also his family life. Funny that – me and Frank have a lot in common it seems. What number do I need to call?

  • kensei

    The headline is “Frank Mitchell ‘glad’ he had eye surgery”

    If the sponsorship was in the headline it would read: “Sponsored: Frank Mitchell ‘glad’ he had eye surgery” or “SPONSORED: Frank Mitchell ‘glad’ he had eye surgery” or “DO YOU SEE WHAT DIFFERENCE A LITTLE INTEGRITY MAKES, NEWTON?: Frank Mitchell ‘glad’ he had eye surgery”. And then everyone would be cool with it and UTV can go on making money.

    And of course Mick will let you away with wildly playing the man because you are famous and right wing and stuff.

  • Newton Emerson

    He’ll let me say you sound like an angry nutter then. Also, this is eyeball not man.

  • kensei

    I’m sure he will. Faux angst is my default mode, so kudos for picking up on it without any emoji or anything.