from the anyone-want-to-take-a-guess? dept
Investigations into Vision Media TV suggested that the questions raised by people at 800notes were reasonable concerns. The NY Times and NPR have debunked many of the claims from Vision Media TV, noting that PBS had clearly claimed that it has no association with Vision Media and that the promises from the company were questionable at best. From NPR:
They are promised the shows will be educational in nature and reach an estimated 60 million American households on public television stations across the country.From the NY Times:
But the programs aren't documentaries; they're marketing segments that will cost the firms that are their subjects roughly $25,000 apiece. And the spots, created by Vision Media of Boca Raton, Fla., are likely to receive little airtime, if any, on local PBS member stations.
"They are selling something that they generally cannot deliver," says Garry Denny, program director of Wisconsin Public Television and a past president of the professional association of programming officials for PBS member stations. "In fact, they are probably not carried by any public television station around the country."
Officials at PBS and at PBS member stations in California, Colorado, Kentucky, New York, South Carolina and Virginia were all aware of the Hugh Downs spots. Yet not one knew of a concrete instance in which the spots featuring Downs appeared on their stations or those of others. PBS and its member stations say they adhere to guidelines banning marketing programming paid for by subjects of the programs.
The caller suggests that the production will be shown on public television and major cable news stations. But the initial pitch, foundation representatives said, does not mention that the production would cost the university or foundation $20,000 or more.In defending 800notes against Vision Media TV's lawsuit, Paul Alan Levy dug up some interesting history on Vision Media TV, such as the fact that it had gone under a variety of other names, such as WJMK and United Media -- using other famous personalities including Walter Cronkite and Mike Douglas, both of whom ended up suing the company over being misled. Somewhere along the way, the company again changed its name to Great America HD. However, after more press attention, Hugh Downs disassociated himself with the company, with his representatives saying that his involvement hadn't gone very far, and that Downs was unaware of the company's practices:
PBS, the national public broadcasting program provider, has had a warning on its Web site for the last three years that it "is not associated with and does not endorse, distribute programming for, review underwriting for or otherwise have any business relationship" with a list of productions companies that includes Vision Media Television.
Lea Sloan, vice president for communications at PBS, said this week, "PBS has no actual knowledge of carriage of any Vision Media programming by any PBS member station."
On Tuesday, Rick Hersh, Downs' agent, said he had been unaware of Vision Media's practices. "It's not great for Hugh, the way that you portrayed them. We didn't know about some of the stuff you reported."Thankfully, the lawsuit against 800notes.com was dismissed, and the increased press attention, as well as the loss of Downs' support, meant trouble for Great America HD. However, Levy has continued to monitor the company and now notes that a brand new company, with remarkably similar content on its webpages and remarkably similar claims, has suddenly popped up under the name "World Progress Report," but this time the "celebrity" involved is former Good Morning America Host Joan Lunden. Levy also notes that apparently the folks behind World Progress Report have decided to be more proactive on their 800notes.com page, which has numerous posts from people talking up their wonderful experiences with the company, and quickly responding to comments that suggest this is a scam, by saying "there must have been a miscommunication."
But Hersh said Downs' involvement was limited to a single day's shooting of generic introductions to the videos at a television studio in Phoenix two years ago. And Hersh said Downs bore no responsibility for how Vision Media sold the videos to clients or what they contained.
As Downs' appearance was contractually limited to public television, Hersh said, "We took comfort in relying on public television not to put something on the air that they didn't find legitimate and honest and straightforward."
Given all of this, and the history involved, I have to wonder how long it will be until there's some press attention on World Progress Report, and how long until Joan Lunden follows the lead of Downs, Cronkite, Douglas and others, and decides to disassociate herself from the company.