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Pay to Be a Financial Expert on Television

This article was written by in Financial Advice and Advisers. 9 comments.


Last week, I had doubts about the advice provided by a so-called financial expert on the local prime-time network news program. Offering advice in public is a difficult task to do well. You have to appeal to your audience by suggesting solutions appropriate for the bulk of the listeners, a group that can vary in terms of intelligence, experience, and education.

In many cases, what ends up happening is that the advice is geared to the “lowest common denominator” (in the non-mathematical sense) and those in need of personalized financial advice end up feeling dangerously fulfilled by platitudes, rules of thumb, and averages. But aside from financial guru superstars like Suze Orman, Dave Ramsey, and Robert Kiyosaki, how do producers of local news programs find the experts they use for their economic/human interest pieces?

According to “the Mole,” my favorite undercover financial adviser, radio and television stations contact financial professionals in the community. The stations approach financial advisers to invite them to present “expert opinion.” There is a catch, however. The financial adviser must pay the station to appear.

Previously, I assumed two things. First, if you are interviewed on a television or radio show, you are not paid for your appearance, nor do you have to pay the broadcaster. I’ve been interviewed several times for print and radio, and never once have I been paid nor have I received an invoice. Second, if you are a station or program’s “official financial expert” or “resident financial adviser,” you are paid for your affiliation. The station should be lucky to have an expert like you on “staff.”

This is not the way media works. Radio and television considers your appearances as advertisements for your financial advisory business. Accordingly, you must pay in order to appear. While I have no evidence if that was the case with the financial adviser on the ABC news program I happened to catch, if the Mole is correct (and I generally trust what he has to say), it’s likely she paid ABC in order to be their resident expert and have her name and phone number flash across the screen.

It makes sense from a business standpoint as well. Presumably, the news audience will believe that this financial adviser is reputable for her to be “awarded” the post of resident expert. In turn, some of the audience may become clients. This may make the adviser’s fee worth the price of admission.

As consumers, it’s more evidence that we can’t simply trust appearances.

Taking financial advice from radio gurus, the Mole, Money Magazine, October 1, 2008

Published or updated October 13, 2008. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes, also known as Flexo, is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about him and follow Luke Landes on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Mr. ToughMoneyLove

Flexo – They do this with lawyers as well.

The broadcast media have two problems with personal finance “experts.” They let the locals pay their way on the air and they spend too much airtime featuring the Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman types, who haven’t said anything new in ten years.

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avatar YoungMoneyTalks

Call me naive, but I’m a little shocked by this. Unless the television station discloses that they are being paid by their so-called “expert”, doesn’t this raise a few ethical red flags?

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avatar Luke Landes ♦127,435 (Platinum)

YoungMoneyTalks: I guess that depends on what a news program is. If it’s a public service, then I would consider this practice unethical. News programs may appear to be a public service, but they’re not. They are entertainment programs, competing for ratings and selling advertising space just like any other program on television. The more creative you can be with advertising space (such as by selling the position as “expert” to the highest bidder), the better it is for business. It’s an ethical grey area, and it’s not the only way that news programs sit in an ethical grey area.

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avatar Ginger @ Girls Just Wanna Have Funds

Really? I’ve been featured as well on local and national media shows but Ive never been asked to pay for my appearance. I just did an interview and uhmm nothing of the sort.

I wonder exactly WHO had to pay their pay to get on the show? This is news to me.

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avatar Luke Landes ♦127,435 (Platinum)

Ginger: This is a bit different than an interview — this practice is for those who the news program keeps on call as a “resident expert…” something they’ll give you a title for, giving the impression you *work for* the station. I haven’t seen your appearances. Did they give you a title and present you as someone “from” the news program, or did they interview you as someone from the “outside” who has done something newsworthy?

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avatar Ginger @ Girls Just Wanna Have Funds

Oh no, no the resident expert working for the station.

Even then, it still doesnt make sense why someone would pay to be the resident expert.

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avatar fathersez

I am also a little shocked by this post. I have always thought that news should be news and paid for stuff come under ads. (which I think are quite truth stretched at times.) Looks like some news are actually ads.

In fact, the so called expert should make a statement that this is a paid for appearance, or something like that.

Regards

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avatar Sanyika Calloway Boyce

As a frequent guest on a national TV show that often refers to me as, “our financial expert” (although they’ve featured Suze, Dave, Robert as well as countless other financial experts on the show) I have NEVER been asked to pay a fee for the “title” of being their regular guest expert or go-to person.

In fact, one of my TV producer friends told me that to ask for an “appearance fee” would be an insult because the “unspoken rule” is that you are getting millions of dollars of free publicity for being on their show, not to mention an implied endorsement.

As an author and entrepreneur I am a huge fan of leveraging the media, especially television to add creditability to your brand and spread your message in ways that would be slower in traditional marketing. While there are many pay-for-placement PR services out there that will get you on TV. I’ve found the success of good ole fashion relationship building and proving your value to producers to be the best way to go.

I’d have to say that it’s not that “you can’t trust appearances,” as much as you have to do your homework, know what kind of information you need, and know that unless you were in a one-on-one session with the financial planner they’re probably not going to be able to give you specialized attention in a 3 minute segment.

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avatar sam

I am a television producer. I have booked a variety of experts for a variety of segments, including financial experts.

I have never heard of said experts being asked to pay for their own appearance. Just because I’ve never heard of it, doesn’t mean it’s never happened– but it could be the work of a highly disreputable booker or producer and would more than likely be under-the-table, and not contractually stipulated.

It is also possible that some newer shows have tried to establish this as a business model, in which the show’s executive producers treat their show as a talent showcase, and ask aspiring talent to “pay to play.” It should go without saying that such shows would suffer from a serious want of journalistic integrity. But such esteemed networks as FOX also suffer from such a want.

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