85 Tex. L. Rev. See Also 1 (2006-2007)

handle is hein.journals/seealtex85 and id is 1 raw text is: Hidden Agendas

David A. Anderson*
You may have suspected long ago that movie makers get paid to show
certain brands of cars or vodka or toys in their films, but you probably were
surprised to learn recently that even some novelists accept payment for using
brand names in their books. You should know that when you use a search
engine to find information, the sites that come up at the top of the list may
have paid to get there. If you were paying attention, you found out not long
ago that television news reports about federal programs may in fact be videos
furnished to the stations by the agencies, and the reporters touting the
programs are actually employees or public relations agents for the agencies.
The newspaper columnists you read may have been paid by the government
to applaud the government activities they write about.
Not that these practices are entirely new. Many years ago, newspapers
had special pages on which a business that bought an ad got a small story
lauding the business and its owner. Most readers understood that these
weren't legitimate features, but the advertisers didn't, or didn't care-and
that's why these pages were known in the trade as sucker pages.
These are examples of the phenomenon Ellen Goodman exposes in her
article, Stealth Marketing and Editorial Integrity. The article couldn't be
more timely. The conception of media we have held for at least a century
takes for granted that media speech is their own unless it's identified as
someone else's. We know, of course, that media outlets and the individuals
who operate them have blind spots and sacred cows, and favored causes and
pet peeves. But we assume they are expressing their views, not positions
they've been paid to take. Professor Goodman draws an analogy to bribery,
which I think is apt. We know politicians' votes will be influenced by
friendship, prejudice, ignorance, pressure, and campaign contributions, but
we don't expect them to exchange their votes for bribes. Likewise with
journalists and filmmakers and novelists: we know they're subject to
influences other than the search for truth and beauty, but we don't expect
them to secretly sell their voices to advertisers.
We expect editorial independence, and generally we've been given that,
despite some exceptions of the sort mentioned above. But that paradigm is
on the cusp of dramatic change. In the world of commercial messages,
advertisers are in an escalating contest with the audience. Television packs
more commercials into each hour, and viewers respond by embracing
technologies that filter them out, such as TiVo, or make it easy for viewers to
* Fred & Emily Marshall Wulff Centennial Chair in Law, University of Texas School of Law.

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