(Paul Chesser, Liberty Headlines) After recent actions by major companies to stop advertising on Fox News’ “The O’Reilly Factor,” which forced its popular anchor out of his job, a conservative group is beginning to pressure corporate advertisers to turn up the heat on “fake news” — and not the type as defined by the political left.
Last week the National Center for Public Policy Research submitted a shareholder proposal at the annual meeting (which was conducted online) of Ford Motor Company that asked company officials to report on the “reputation risk” of advertising on “ethically questionable” news programs, and to use their advertising influence to push for more “fair-minded and objective” journalism.
Citing evidence revealed by Wikileaks that showed collusion between top officials with Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and employees with national news organizations, and a report from the Media Research Center that found 89 percent of coverage by ABC, CBS and NBC of President Trump in his first 100 days was negative, NCPPR said Ford should demand more objectivity from the broadcast companies that depend on their advertising dollars.
“As hostility grows between the President and channels that report what he calls fake news, Ford exposes itself to reputational risk if it continues to affiliate with ethically-questionable news outlets,” said Justin Danhof, director of NCPPR’s Free Enterprise Project, in a question submitted to Ford executives during the shareholder meeting. “Many Ford owners and potential Ford customers, for example, support the President’s efforts to grow American manufacturing. Their purchasing decisions may be influenced by which outlets Ford supports with its paid advertising.
“Will you vow to use your power as an advertiser to push for increased objectivity among the media outlets with which you spend shareholder resources?” Danhof asked. “If that effort is rebuffed, will you withdraw advertisements from networks that many people, including the President, believe peddle fake news?”
In justifying its shareholder proposal, Danhof noted that Ford was among several companies that suspended advertising on Google’s platforms — including YouTube — because of potential offensive content. He said the move, in conjunction with other corporations such as Johnson & Johnson, Coca-Cola and Walmart, would have the effect of forcing Google to change its policies and clean up its users’ content.
But NCPPR reported that Ford’s general counsel, Bradley Gayton, rebuffed their request with what seemed to be a “canned answer.”
“Ford advertises on a range of programming to reach our customers,” Gayton responded. “I think it’s commonly understood Ford doesn’t control or endorse political views of any media outlet which we advertise on. The purpose of advertising is to inform consumers of our great products and services, and we think the public really does understand that advertising via certain media outlets does not translate into an endorsement of such outlets’ views.
“Potential buyers represent a range of views,” he added, “and our goal is really to call all of them our customers.”
Danhof called that answer a dodge, in light of how the company handled its relationship with Google. He said by not evaluating how its advertising affiliation with news networks that deliver slanted — and sometimes false — coverage favoring only one side of the political spectrum, that Ford risks alienating a large segment of their potential customers.
“If Ford is not evaluating the way that President Trump and the media are interacting, it’s derelict in its duty,” said Danhof. “As those two factions seem to become further entrenched, with the press giving exceedingly negative coverage of the White House and President Trump calling some media outlets ‘fake’ news and enemies of the American people, Ford finds itself in danger of losing customers that equate the company’s brand with press attacks on the President.”
This morning Ford announced it would cut 10 percent of its salaried workforce in North America and Asia, blaming slowing U.S. sales.
“Ford executives surely know that the company has great influence over those [media] outlets on which it chooses to use to spend advertising dollars,” Danhof said. “When it comes to media platforms, Ford executives signaled today that they are shirking their responsibility and power.”