A radio station has sold the naming rights to its newsroom, sparking some concern that advertisers had crossed a line that could influence news coverage.
The WIBA newsroom in Madison will be known as the Amcore Bank News Center beginning Jan. 1, a bank spokeswoman said.
"What listeners will hear on air is something like, 'Now from the Amcore Bank News Center, here's WIBA's Jennifer Miller,'" said Jeff Tyler, vice president of Clear Channel Radio-Madison, which owns WIBA-AM 1210 and FM 101.5.
The deal's financial terms weren't disclosed.
Tyler said there are many other examples of selling naming rights in broadcasting. Clear Channel Milwaukee's WISN-AM 1130 sold its newsroom naming rights to Pyramax Bank last year, he said.
Pyramax's senior vice president of marketing, Monica Baker, said the Milwaukee-area bank has sponsored the newscasts of six Clear Channel radio stations in Milwaukee since February 2004. She said the bank is not allowed to advertise any products during its on-air mention.
"We're not able to put a tag line in the actual sponsorship because they want to protect the integrity of the news," Baker said.
Tyler said producing news is getting expensive and the sale had to be done. He insisted it won't affect news content.
Kelly McBride, an ethics specialist at the Poynter Institute, a journalism training center, called it a bad move.
"The idea is that a newsroom is an advocate for the public," McBride said. "It's Madison's news, not Amcore's news. If you have corporate branding, that is going to taint the whole product."
Amcore Bank spokeswoman Katherine Taylor said the bank would not get preferential treatment.
"We don't go into it with that type of expectation and the media do not have that type of bias either," Taylor said.
Amcore regional president Jim Hartlieb said the deal will help build "brand awareness."
University of Wisconsin-Madison journalism professor James Baughman said he's not worried. Broadcasters often sold naming rights in the 1950s, he said.
"Clear Channel is trying to maximize its profits. Advertisers are trying to find new ways of getting their brand out there," he said. "We're going to be seeing more of this."