MSNBC’s sponsorship deal with Starbucks has raised new questions about the shifting line between news and sales. As you probably know, the cable network’s Morning Joe program is now branded with a Starbucks logo, and that’s not all. The show sold its name to the coffee company, so it’s now “Morning Joe Brewed by Starbucks.” The question is, what else has it sold?
The world is just different…The rules of 10, 15, 20 years ago just don’t apply. You can’t live by them. You’ve got to be creative.
Griffin insists that Morning Joe won’t pull any punches when Starbucks is in the news, but viewers could be forgiven for thinking otherwise. The perception that MSNBC has given up its independence can only compromise its credibility.
Three years ago, when some local stations made similar deals, I wrote a column pointing out some of the pitfalls, but I didn’t expect a national network to follow suit. As far as I can recall, NBC hasn’t had a sponsorship deal quite like this since the old Camel News Caravan went off the air more than 50 years ago.
But the recession has hammered TV news budgets and, as RTNDA’s Ryan Murphy points out, it’s becoming easier to accept what might once have been anathema:
Say, for example, my former organization decided to sell an advertising skin that wrapped the homepage – something I would have been vehemently against – but the sponsorship money alone would have saved my job. Would I have been so against jeopardizing the product then?
About the only good thing you can say for the Starbucks-MSNBC deal is that it’s out in the open. At least viewers know the coffee company is paying for all that on-air promotion it’s getting and judge the content of the program accordingly.