Submitted by Diane Farsetta on
"Product placement is hardly a new phenomenon, and the morning [U.S. television] shows long ago mastered the quid pro quo of daily television: Actors give interviews timed to their latest projects; authors are recruited as experts just as their books hit the stores," writes Alessandra Stanley. "But the fourth hour of 'Today' has tipped the balance of the program. ... Especially now, in the Christmas holiday marketing frenzy, it is sometimes hard to tell the NBC program from those on ShopNBC or QVC. ... It used to be that hosts who are at least nominally part of the network's news division maintained an air of neutrality during consumer segments; now they are in on the pitch." This further blurring of "the distinction between consumer news and product promotion" isn't helped by the fact that "Wal-Mart recently began showing a 20-minute infomercial -- four women chatting roguishly over coffee mugs about the merits of the chain -- that looks uncannily like an episode of 'The View.'"