The News on the News

Since there was so little activity this week given the holiday and the Ford funeral, there is no Weekly Roundup today.

J0321210_1But I took the opportunity to do something I’ve wanted to do for a long time.  Longtime readers will know that I’ve am somewhat fascinated by the amount of airtime during the news devoted to commercials and advertisements during the news that sell treatments for ailments.  So I did a very unscientific analysis with a stopwatch during the evening network news on Thursday evening.   This is what I found:

Of the 30 minute time slot for news on this national network, there were only 20 minutes of news, which counts lead-in time such as the welcome to the program stuff.  The longest segment is the first segment, which on Thursday evening actually ran over 10 minutes.  The rest of the segments are only about 3 minutes long. 

The other 10 minutes were commercials.  A very small amount of air time, about a minute in total, was devoted to commercials for other television shows, such as the morning news show.  Another 3 minutes or so was devoted to an auto, a coat store, a restaurant, salad dressing, juice (mentioning its role in cold prevention) and cereal, which by the way, mentioned its affect on blood pressure.  Almost 2 minutes were devoted to cold remedies, dandruff relief or painkillers all that were OTC.  Then there were 3 whole minutes dedicated to prescription relief for either cardiovascular or osteoporosis. 

The interesting thing was that I really expected the RX commercial time space to be higher.  But if you do the math for just this one night, approximately half of the advertising revenues from the evening news are coming from the pharmaceutical industry, either RX or OTC.  Yet, that is a source upon which we rely for our news about the pharmaceutical industry. 

Granted, there is nothing scientific about this.  And my point is not that I think that evening news sponsorship has any impact on news content or coverage – I don’t.  But many are concerned about the percentage of drug enforcement by FDA that is funded by PDUFA fees will influence the FDA’s efforts.  But I have to say that like the news, I likewise do not believe that the role of PDUFA fees necessarily has an impact on FDA decisions.  In short, there is no way to tell by relying on percentages or amounts because the numbers by themselves simply don’t make the case.

This message was brought to you by me. 

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One Response to The News on the News

  1. A few months ago I did something very similar to your TV News advertising review. My unscientific but accurate review was of print advertising in Readers Digest. In that magazine, fully 23% or ads are by pharma companies. However, in print, the amount of space taken up by these ads is higher than 23% since the pharma companies are forced to include the package insert. Thus, the average drug ad takes up 3.3 pages. Here is the link to the whole article:
    http://laszloletter.typepad.com/the_laszlo_letter/2006/09/readers_digest_.html