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Bank buys naming rights to Wisconsin radio newsroom

Critics say the practice calls into question journalistic integrity.

December 15, 2005|Martin Miller | Times Staff Writer

IN a move that has drawn fire from some journalism organizations, a Wisconsin radio station has agreed to join the ranks of everything from college football bowl games to public school scoreboards by selling the naming rights of its newsroom to a business.

Beginning Jan. 1, the WIBA-FM newsroom in Madison, Wis., will become known as the Amcore Bank News Center. The station is one of more than 1,200 owned by the nation's largest radio broadcaster, San Antonio-based Clear Channel Communications.

The Society of Professional Journalists is urging Clear Channel to stop the practice immediately, arguing that it calls into question the integrity of a news operation. "The only thing a news organization has is its credibility," David Carlson, president of SPJ, one of the nation's largest journalism organization, said in a statement. "When that's lost, listeners, viewers and readers will not be far behind."

Corporate sponsorship is not new in journalism. About a half-century ago, major news outlets such as NBC news routinely carried the names and logos of businesses with their newscasts.

Phone calls to WIBA-FM and to Clear Channel headquarters were not returned.

However, a Clear Channel executive in Madison told reporters there that the new name would not influence news coverage.

"This simply means they get a 'name branding' with the description of the news center on air," Jeff Tyler, vice president of Clear Channel Radio-Madison, told the Wisconsin State Journal.

"What listeners will hear on air is something like, 'Now from the Amcore Bank News Center, here's WIBA's Jennifer Miller.' "

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