Ellen Sullivan of ASCP has submitted the following comment about a previous note (see: Quest Using Video News Releases to Promote Allergy Testing):
Video news releases, like their print counterparts, are a communications tool. They do not constitute unethical methods of communicating. It is up to the broadcaster to attribute the video to the organization that produced it. News releases in print and video form are effective and accepted legitimate means for organizations to communicate news to the news media, who then may choose to confirm the information independently before reporting it, or choose to run the information as provided. Many good stories probably would not air if organizations did not make it easier on the news outlets by providing prepackaged video. I think the news story about a new blood test that could help diagnose allergies in children enhances, not tarnishes, the image of laboratory professionals.
As I understand her point, she believes that it is not unethical for a company to develop video news releases (VNRs) and that the TV station that airs the clip may choose not to provide attribution of the source of the VNR. I personally do not agree with this perspective. In the specific case of allergy testing, I believe that the viewer of such a VNR needs to know that Quest has both funded the development of the video clip and has also entered into a partnership with Pharmacia, the developer of the test (ImmunoCAP), to educate "primary care physicians about the benefits of IgE blood testing." I also believe that a company that distributes VNRs should contractually require the TV station that shows the video to divulge its source. If the source is divulged, it then become a matter of caveat emptor and no different than any other infomercial shown on TV.