Each morning news anchors on Fox's Las Vegas affiliate sit in front of very visible McDonald's iced coffee cups, part of a product-placement deal. The fast-food chain sponsors the two-hour morning news-and-lifestyle segment, but instead of commercial breaks, the advertisement happens during the news.
Since advertisement dollars already influence networks, I think the product-placement deal raises some old conflict of interest concerns. The producers say they would pull the cups if they had to report a negative story about McDonald's, just as they would pull a regular commercial. Still, the covertness of the promotion could deceive some viewers not aware that McDonald's paid for the cups' placement.
To find out how political parties are incorporating product placement, and how the industry sees it, read more.
Product integration happens a ton in scripted television, so much so that the Writers Guild of America wants it blatantly disclosed. The WGA says: "the hope is that consumers, not expecting to find a commercial within their program, will fail to realize they are actually being advertised to. This practice exploits the emotional connection viewers have with shows." Perhaps this expectation of neutrality increases significantly when dealing with news, as opposed to entertainment.
Going the overt-sponsorship road, the Democrats will be handing out AT&T logo-plastered bags at the Democratic National Convention. It's almost impossible not to see a conflict of interest here (telecom cough cough immunity) but, the Democrats assure that sponsorship does not equal access to politicians.
How should news stations and political parties reconcile high costs with integrity?