Holmes Report Blog

The Holmes Report blog focuses on news and issues of interest to public relations professionals. Our main site can be found at www.holmesreport.com.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Beyond Payola: Putting Steven Milloy in the same category as Armstrong Williams, Michael Fumento, and the rest of the commentators caught with their hands in the corporate (or government) cookie jar is unfair to everyone involved. It’s unfair to those reporters and commentators previously caught up in the scandal because at least they have some journalistic credentials, despite their occasional lapses. Its unfair to Milloy because he has never, to my knowledge, pretended to be anything other than a corporate shill.

So when The New Republic reports that Milloy received $90,000 from ExxonMobil last year and not coincidentally devoted one of his FoxNews.com columns to decrying climate change as “junk science,” we should not be surprised. Milloy has taken money from tobacco companies to trash research into the effects of second-hand smoke, and has typically been quite overt about both his politics and his financial support system.

The problem is not with Milloy, but with FoxNews.com, which continues to present his commentary—including a recent piece on the “Top 10 Junk Science Claims of 2005”—without disclosing his industry ties. A Fox spokesman told TNR that "Fox News was unaware of Milloy's connection with Philip Morris,” which seems incredible given Milloy’s background.


  • At 3:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Is this a purely US phenomenon I wonder, or is it just that expectations of transparency are higher in the US and therefore abuses like this come to light more readily?

  • At 9:46 AM, Blogger Paul A. Holmes said…

    Interesting question. In the U.K., I would be surprised if this was widespread, and I suspect the outrage would be the same -- or even stronger -- if cases were brought to light. Not sure about the continent.

    Maybe I'll use the European newsletter to survey PR people about what are accepted practices in each market.

  • At 10:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Very unusual in the UK, I agree. I think this is probably because the BBC still casts such a long shadow and sets standards of excellence to which the others still aspire. There is no Fox-equivalent - SKY News would be the closest and that has pitched itself as relatively highbrow.

    As for other markets - clearly not an issue in Italy where Berlusconi owns 90% of the media anyway (especially broadcast) and no one believes a word it says; the French have an ambivalent relationship with the commercial world at the best of times and hate to be 'manipulated' by business, so I doubt it would be tolerated; the German heavy-weight press is a bastion of conservative prurience (and the rest is regional); Spain is less like Italy than most people would think.

    A pan-European comparison would be an interesting survey, as you say, especially combined (say) with numbers on who each of these publics tend to trust (business, politicians, NGOs).


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