How Long Until Joan Lunden Disassociates Herself From World Progress Report?

from the anyone-want-to-take-a-guess? dept

Earlier this year, we wrote about the company called Vision Media TV, which was suing the site after people on that site had written reports about Vision Media TV, questioning its sales techniques. It seems that Vision Media TV would go around contacting organizations, heavily talking up its association with former TV newscaster Hugh Downs, and suggesting (heavily) that the TV broadcast it would put together for the organization contacted would air on “public television.” Of course, to cover some basic “production costs,” Vision Media TV just wanted a mere $20,000 to $30,000.

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.

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.

From the NY Times:

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.

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.”

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:

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.”

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.”

Thankfully, the lawsuit against 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 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.”

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.

Filed Under:
Companies: 800notes, great america hd, united media, vision media tv, wjmk, world progress report

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Comments on “How Long Until Joan Lunden Disassociates Herself From World Progress Report?”

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Derek Bredensteiner (profile) says:

For those that don't want to invest 20 minutes reading Mike's post ...

Vision Media TV Group keeps changing their name, and keeps getting new spokespersons. They’re picture is in the dictionary under scam. When this is revealed about the new name they’re running under, their spokesperson bails. They just got a new name and a new spokesperson. Guess what happens next?

Paul Alan Levy (profile) says:


One of the series that World Progress Report has been touting in its press releases is devoted to helping consumers recognize scams.

At least they have a sense of humor…..

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Re: not funny if you fell for it

I love the way they absolutely secured the credit for the relationship with World Progress Report:

“The Owensboro Daviess County Convention and Visitors Bureau was directly responsible for making the arrangements for World Progress Report to feature the museum.”

Good for you, Bureau, good for you. Don’t let anyone else take credit for your good stewardship.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Repeat Offenders

What is so frustrating to me isn’t that there are scammers out there, it’s that society and the justice system seem so incapable of stopping them.

Even when they are completely exposed, and any “moron in a hurry” can see that it is a scam, we use words like “looks questionable” and “alleged fraud” and such. I understand they are innocent until proven guilty, and that’s good. However, when does the “proven guilty” part of that happen? Seems never.

So, after exposing them as almost-certain grifters, they simply close up shop, take their HTML, and just set up under a new state, new PO Box, new numbered company, and new URL. It’s not just World Progress Report, either, it’s almost every scammer, spammer, fraudster, etc.

Why does our system have no tools to stop them?

Michael McCallum (user link) says:

World Progress Report

After many strongly worded emails back and forth between myself and World Progress Report I did finally get my money back. As part of the contract that I signed for the return of my money I am required to post the following:

“I have done additional research and spoken with the executives at World Progress Report. They are not criminals and have not scammed me. They were reasonable to deal with and I, therefore retract my previous blog.”

Anon says:



I’ve been approached by some people from with Joan Lunden. I had a phone call.

They are offering a public television spot, with over 60 million households covered, primetime spot on CNN, Fox News etc. All for the low, low price of 18-19K. Too good to be true?

My first red flag was when I was on there site and showed up. The second was a whois of their site is hidden with domainsByProxy.

Can someone confirm this is definitely a scam?

ananomous (user link) says:

Re: thebioseries

YES IT IS SCAM – They change their names every week now its and

The Names just keep on changing. First, then and on and on – once a phone number gets tagged anotherone pops up. These people call themselves Christians… They are anything but!!!! PLEASE BEWARE!!!!

Anonymous Coward says:


As a former employee who was scripted in what I could and could not say…I NEVER EVER told anyone that Vision Media or WPR were affiliated with PBS. A popular misnomer, Public Television is made up of over 250 participating channels… PBS requires HUGE underwriting costs from grants by whoever will pay, and solicitations from viewers.

Vision Media is a company with a lot of integrity, compassion, and a GIGANTIC commitment to giving voice to companies and associations that could otherwise never afford to broadcast their message publicly. On many occasions, companies received reduced fees, flexible payment plans, and sponsorship support to cover the production costs, which are explained in PERFECT detail before entering into contract with any clients.

The finished productions are exceptional quality, filmed in beta and recorded and played in HD for the best effect and impact. With thousands of business relationships over 25 years in the business, only 3 companies have ever asked for their money back, because they decided that they were not able to handle the increased volume of callers and business that their production had the potential to bring.

It is so very easy for people to point fingers and blast each other when their own private worlds are filled with hardship and unhappiness…but, it is not acceptable to discredit a company that is dedicated to quality programming, education, and providing the opportunity for all companies, all for-profit, to make their personal mark in the market.

If all of the critics of Vision Media would produce pieces of equal quality and focus on their own work, they would not need to discredit and destroy the livelihood of others. Success is something that is earned. Vision Media deserves every award they have received and kudos for their integrity and steadfastness in a world of hatred, hardship, and disrespect.

In addition, they were fine employers until the horrible media attacks caused them to cut back on staff, leaving me without an income. They provided severence, benefits, and offered a non-salaried position if I wanted it.

These are GOOD, UPSTANDING people who want the best for everyone! Meet them in person, ask them to their faces, and see the hard work that goes on behind the scenes before casting stones! Afterall, you would wish to be treated as fairly, no?

x (user link) says:


So do think that the above link is also wrong. What a shame.

Just a matter of time till a new host comes out with more…

And, as a matter of fact, did you really work for Television Producers or Just Telemarketers???

x (user link) says:


How much severence did they pay yo wo write this. Or do you feel that since the market is recessed, it;s ok to set a bad example for yor children and lye and scam people for e living, You call yourself a parent, but you shuld sinceely take some parenting classes and provide a role model for your children. You sold youself to the devil for the almighty dollar and you have no scruples.

Are you proud of yourslelf! You are disgraceful!!

I See One says:

Re: Not true, sir

I see at least one person in this comment thread who did try to do business with the people in Florida who are trying to make money off of some pre-taped Joan Lunden footage… a Mr. McCallum. It looks like he had a fairly negative experience.

Of course anyone who has any doubts can quickly contact Joan Lunden’s office directly:

Donna Hoertz says:

they have morphed again

It appears there is a new name for the company. They contacted my company under the name “The Journal”. After being intriqued with the name Joan Lunden I listened to the sales pitch. After the twenty some odd thousand dollars was brought up I said “so basically you are a production company”. After several attempts to talk me out of thinking that, particularly using the lure of public television, I quickly realized they were a very expensive production company.

Carlson Yamamoto says:

Beware Of Joan Lunden Scam

Last year, I was approached by these scam artist who called themselves “The Journal.” I fell victim to these people, and as a result my investors and I are financially ruined. What’s worse is after reporting this incident to the real Joan Lunden, and her Attorneys at Loeb & Loeb, there has not been any criminal/civil litigation initiated by Joan to protect more people from being victimized, and salvage her reputation. Placing a warning advisory on her site just isn’t enough! These scams have gone on for several years now by the same people. I just looked at American Milestones website, and website which is the scam I was victimized…They are identical! Beware of Joan Lunden, Beware of The Journal, Beware of The American Milestone, Beware of Any Production Company Asking For Any Monies!

GEinLA (profile) says:

The scam continues...

Latest name in this same tired scam is Public Television Distributors, Inc. And their newest face is Martin Sheen. They are calling the show In Focus, but it is the same old song and dance, you pay big bucks for no guarantee of anything ever airing.
Additionally, they have purchased a staggering number of domain names, started a Facebook and a Google +, and even made themselves a Wikipedia entry in an effort to appear legitimate, but be assured, In Focus with Martin Sheen is a SCAM. Repeat, InFocus with Martin Sheen is a scam! Not a report on a scam, an ACTUAL scam. Do not give money to Public Television Distributors, Inc and their show, they guarantee you nothing as return on a more than $20,000 investment.

WakeUp says:


This whole industry started in Boca Raton as a brainchild of Mark Kielar (now a born-again Christian, producing TV sermons, while still hocking these “Try to Sell Any Type of Show to Any Company That Has an Advertising Budget.” He was able to get his Boca Raton house & WJMK TV off ice built off the products that were sent in for shows he was producing/allegedly airing. They started asking maybe $4,000-8,000 per segment, plus the product. That was back in the late 80s. One of the products was a White Noise Generator that would make it hard for a potential company to hear that there were perhaps 8-10 other telemarketers delivering the same script. Many early leads came from ads placed in industry magazines they were targeting. If they had the budget to spend on ad pages, well then they might fall for an exciting TV opportunity that allegedly had a household reach they could not otherwise afford!

It was not much more & continues to be not much more than a “boiler room”-type telemarketing “adventure.” For the most … there is not ONE person there that alleges he/she is a “producer,” that has any real production experience on any set. There are actual paid entry-level writers/segment producers (the same thing) that do go out & actually shoot the A & B roll, write a 3-5 minute editable script & pass it all over to editing, in ONE day. Some turn out OK & usable for internal sales, training, etc. Most are poorly done, more to the tune of no better than a local reporter with a cameraman doing an interview & hoping the company has better footage of the product, service, etc. than they might get. Throw in some stock footage, a professionally taped intro & end with a TV personality, and voila, a half hour of pretty poor production value, as a whole. If the 2 person crew has to travel to some headquarters, that is extra $$$. In the early 90s the cost rose to about $12,500. They were actually said to be “Pre-Production/Scheduling Fees,” leading the potential client to think that they are only paying for a small portion of what the total cost will be. Totally false. ALL profits were built into that fee. All of them.

The ruse is that none of these “producers” can promise ANY coverage, or potential audience, on ANY of these networks. Do you think CNN is going to put your mini-infomercial on instead of Wolf Blitzer, or Anderson Cooper. You already know what PBS has said, regarding having no affiliation with any of these iterations. Around 1991 they used to be able to buy half hour slots for under $10,000 on CNBC, that would run at 8:00/8:30am, but it became costlier as CNBC built their viewership, vs. the old FNN. 7 segments at $12,500, even back then, you can do the math.

All that matters is there’s enough companies that will keep foolishly forking over $20K to keep this scam going. It’s a pure ego thing, thinking you’re going to get some great exposure, for seemingly very little $$$. But so many don’t want to do their homework, and they WANT to trust others. Former “producers,” who were made to sign “no compete” clauses, even went off to start their own telemarketing TV companies . . . selling the same type of crap, with the same scripts. Most of them still are located out of Boca Raton, FL. It’s the same old set up. “We have a top group of advisers for the show, and they forwarded us your new technology to be highlighted. And did I mention Joan Lunden, Walter Cronkite and Morely Safer will be doing the interviews … Oh, and 60 million viewers, whatever.” Their real Board of Advisers consists of having enough money to buy a CD each year that tells them who has the top 500-1000 advertising budgets in the US, and who is the DM (Decision Maker) who could sign off on a project like this, because they don’t want to waste time talking to someone, who would then need to talk to a few more people up the chain of command. If these guys aren’t get authorization forms signed, and checks don’t come in, they don’t make money. They want to stroke your ego by actually asking if “you have the authority to sign off on something like this, because I have a fake production meeting I have to go into, and I don’t want you to lose the slot we have reserved for your segment.” You’re just a lead to them, and they are “pathological” individuals who don’t care if what you spend is ALL the money you have for that year for advertising/PR. Shame on that idiot for trying to say what decent folk these were. They’re just misunderstood. What no one has mentioned is that these producers often like to claim that the production costs & airings are well worth over $100,000, if not way more. So why would a fee of $20,000 NOT seem like a bargain. Well, if you knew enough about real production, you’d know that the real costs are only to cover a real writer/producer & cameraman for a half day, or so, Then a half day to write the script, including where interview quotes & B-Roll should be inserted … then maybe an hour for editing (max.) … plus not paying anything to hope some PBS station in Fargo “might” air it if they have nothing else (until they realize it’s an informercial that a group of companies paid for.) TOTAL STREET VALUE, ….. GET READY . . . MAYBE $2,000. By that I mean the actual cost to the Scammers. Oh wait, I forget to mention that the telemarketer/producer gets paid a commission, probably now $2,000, or so, when that deal is landed & the check is in. He/she will never be a part of the actual production. Now, the contracted talent is paid to do basic voice overs for the show, so there is a cost there, on a per show basis. Some intros will be just used over & over, to save wherever possible. That is not my forte to know, but if the base cost of a segment is $4,000 before you average in TV personality costs, where they tape for multiple shows in a day, if possible … you can begin to see where $20,000 fee leaves a lot of profit if you don’t actually have to pay to air it anywhere … you just PRAY someone does. I guess that where the “Born Again” aspect comes in.

In the end, these infomercials, or whatever you want to call them, can NOT be sold honestly, or for the real value the customer is getting. If they could operate consistently “above board,” they would not have to be constantly changing company names, web addresses, etc. Enough said. Good luck, Paul Alan Levy!

Andrew R says:

now proactive?

Ill tell ya whats funny, its the fact that all the trash talked about is being done Mr. Anomymous with no real proof of any scam. Now, if I got ripped Id say my name and give detailed information on how I got taken. Read pretty far down the thread and did not see ONE real complaint with all the details, so it appears the real scam is Mr. Anonymous making weak allegations with no real proof or justice would have been done and Id see a docket number with a link saying look for yourself. As far as the company name changing is obvious why stick with a name that Mr. Anonymous is doing his best to trash out. Bottom line if ya cant give your name and court docket number showing justice then you yourself are bogous. Show me how and tell me why b4 you slash although the company name changes they actually have a real name and where’s yours? Oh thats right ya dont have a name or any real proof so you really you dont have a real complaint. Til I read otherwise anonymous slashers seem to be a scam because if you dont have a name then you dont have a complaint, plain and simple. Instead of show me the money “Show me the Evidence” cuz its not there to show. Enough Said. Sincerely, Andrew with a “REAL” name.

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