Network News Anchors Becoming Commonplace In Political Advertising

By Alex Weprin 

As we reported this morning, President Obama’s reelection campaign released a new ad that features clips from TV news programs. The clips are cut in a way to place the President and his accomplishments in a positive light, and likely opponent Mitt Romney in a negative one.

The trend isn’t new. Romney used TV news clips in the same way for an ad earlier this year.

CJR looks at the issue in-depth, and examines the conundrum facing television journalists and executives.


Networks are loathe to see their top journalists and news programming used this way, but have little recourse. When they protest, advertisers claim “fair use,” a tenet of US copyright law allowing limited use of copyrighted material without the owner’s permission. Television stations are especially leery of appearing to try to censor candidates by pulling their ads. (Networks and stations have somewhat better odds challenging the ads of super PACs and other outside groups, as CJR has previously noted.)

And while there may be ambivalence further up the food chain in these media conglomerates, in the news divisions, there is none. The journalists featured in these ads have spent their careers building reputations for neutrality that are now being hijacked in 30 seconds by the politicians they attempt to cover. News division executives, for their part, are in a quandary, not wanting to draw more attention to the ads by objecting to them, but not wanting to appear to condone the practice, either.

Meanwhile, the use of the tactic appears likely to grow. The first advertising shot fired in the general election, by Republican super PAC Crossroads GPS against President Obama, used footage of a recent “Meet the Press” interview in an ad now airing in six states. The Obama campaign, in turn, added a screenshot of that ad—a screenshot featuring the “Meet the Press” clip—to its own commercial airing in the same states.