HBO Host John Oliver Targets Local Stations’ Sponsored Content Practices

By Kevin Eck 

Using the famous words of former WNBC anchor Sue Simmons as a rallying cry, John Oliver, the host of Last Week Tonight on HBO, took aim at local stations featuring sponsored content masquerading as actual news.

Simmons was famously caught on a hot mic asking “…the fuck are you doing?” while tossing to break in 2008. It was in that spirit that Oliver set out to show that the long history of local stations taking money for content is alive and well.

Oliver and his team created a fake company with a fake website and pitched local stations on a fake sexual wellness blanket called the Venus Veil, which was touted as the “world’s first sexual wellness blanket.”

Three local stations took the bait. Oliver said it cost him $7,200 to get KTVX in Salt Lake City, Utah, KVUE in Austin, Texas and KMGH in Denver to talk about the fake product. Oliver’s team even put clips from the segments on the blanket’s website, which you can take a look at here.

“As we have said for years now, the integrity of local news is crucially important. There is real harm for everyone if that integrity is damaged,” said Oliver. “To the owners of these stations who are selling them out at a depressingly cheap price, I have a simple question. The f**k are you doing?”

Some of the stations have responded amid the criticism.

“FYI Austin is a two-minute commercial spot that is not a part of the KVUE newscast,” a KVUE spokesperson told TVSpy. “It was an error to air this spot, and we are reviewing our processes so this doesn’t happen again.”

Watch Oliver’s entire segment below.

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