Friday, February 12, 2010

Toyota puts price on good journalism

As Toyota steps up its public-relations pushback machine, consumers of news as well as cars might recall that the Japanese carmaker’s problems are not new –- and they’re trying to financially punish those news operations that brought the facts to light.

ABC-TV affiliates in five southeastern states had Toyota pull all their advertising in retaliation for ABC News accurately reporting on problems such as sticky pedals.

“ABC News and its chief investigative correspondent Brian Ross have been reporting on the problem of ‘runaway Toyotas’ since last November,” reports journalist and commentator Laura Flanders. “Ross had hosted a series of stories long before Toyota management started issuing apologies and denials about the extent of their cars’ defects.”

Earlier this month, as Toyota started its biggest recalls ever, Southeast Toyota dealers started pulling commercials off ABC. According to excerpts from an ABC report, the ad agency representing 173 dealers told local ABC affiliates that the shift was due to “excessive stories on the Toyota issues.” One unnamed ABC station manager quoted in a February 8 story on the ad-pulls is quoted as saying that the dealers shifted their commercial time buys to non-ABC stations in the same markets, “as punishment for the reporting.”

Toyota recently started recalling 2010 Prius, too. to its list of recalled vehicles.

“Will ABC News continue reporting?” Flanders asks. “Probably. But will cash-strapped local affiliates continue to run those stories?”