MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Sen. Al Franken’s TV ad skillfully weaves the campaign’s own video and real TV news broadcasts, adding a narrator’s voice that sounds like a newsreader and morphs into actual TV anchors.

“A workforce training bill that Al Franken championed was signed into law today,” says an unidentified narrator, followed immediately by a Mankato KEYC-TV anchor.

“That bill is aimed at creating partnerships to make sure those applying for jobs have the right skills,” he says.

Two thirds of the 30 second ad use on-air footage from nightly news programs in Mankato and Duluth, blurring the lines between reporting and endorsing.

“Three million jobs nationwide aren’t being filled because workers don’t have the skills to fill them,” reports a news anchor from KBJR in Duluth, followed immediately by Franken: “This is a bipartisan bill.”

KBJR-TV objected to the political use of their news anchors.

The station’s top executive disavowed it, on the air.

“It’s very important that the viewers here in the Northland understand that KBJR and KDLH have no political bias, have no preference with candidates, and would never take a position in a political campaign,” said David Jensch, vice president and station manager of KBJR and KDLH Television in Duluth.

“This is an ad that we can’t stop. It’s airing all over the state of Minnesota, and we don’t like it, but legally there is nothing we can do about it.”

Even if TV stations object, candidates say they can legally take footage from TV news and put it in commercials under the “fair use” exceptions in federal copyright laws.

According to the U.S. Copyright Office, fair use includes:

1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes.
2. The nature of the copyrighted work.
3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole.
4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work.

Alexandra Fetissoff, the communications director for the Al Franken for Senate campaign, says the footage of television anchors in the ad was properly used.

The Franken campaign provided numerous examples of other campaigns with the same ad strategy.

“This ad talks about a real problem that Sen. Franken is working hard to solve and where he’s achieved concrete results for Minnesotans,” Fetissoff said. “The footage was used in context.”

While potentially misleading, the use of reporters in political campaign ads is not uncommon.

This year, Wisconsin Democratic candidate for governor Mary Burke used two TV anchors in an ad related to Wisconsin job growth.

“Wisconsin lags behind the rest of the country when it comes to job growth,” says one anchor in the ad.

And in 2014, some Republican campaigns are going further, creating fake news websites in at least 20 campaigns around the country.

The articles look real, but they’re political hit pieces.

That’s Reality Check.


Franken Ad “Signed Into Law”

Al Franken for Senate

KBJR-TV/Northland News Center Duluth

KEYC-TV Mankato

Fair Use Copyright Laws

National Journal: NRCC Launches Fake News Sites

Columbia Journalism Review

FOX11 Green Bay

Central Valley Update Online “News Site”

Augusta Update Online “News Site”

Wis. Dem Gov Candidate Mary Burke Campaign Ad


Mitt Romney ad against Newt Gingrich

Harry Reid ad against Sharron Angle

House Majority PAC against Scott DesJarlais

Clair McCaskill ad against Todd Akin

Dan Branch ad against Ken Paxten

Scott Walker Recount Ad against Tom Barrett


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