by Paul Alan Levy
Over the past year, several sources have discussed the deceptive solicitation techniques used by Vision Media TV Group, a Boca Raton TV production company, to drum up business from unsophisticated non-profit groups by promising to get them free air time on public television stations for a series hosted by Hugh Downs. Vision Media sued to force the telemarketing commentary site 800Notes.com to take down critical comments and identify its critics – that lawsuit was ultimately dismissed. One interesting fact that emerged during the litigation was that Vision Media was itself a new incarnation of a decade-long operation that formerly operated under different names and offered public television exposure associated with names like Walter Cronkite, Morely Safer and Aaron Brown. Each time the light of publicity shone on this scam, the operators would change names and find a new former respected newscaster to use as its lure. Vision Media tried to change its name to Great America HD, but eventually Hugh Downs disassociated himself from the operation when its nature was divulged.
Now come indications that the group behind Vision Media may have adopted yet another new name, the World Progress Report, using the reputation for former Good Morning America newscaster Joan Lunden as the lure. Explanatory text on the World Progress Report web site is lifted word-for-word from the Great America HD site (which at this writing is no longer online), and as with Great America HD, the World Progress Report web site features a long list of what appear to be paid placements on commercial cable programs over the past few years (including programming that Vision Media TV claimed it had placed), but no evidence of airing on public television stations. It appears that someone has even gone to the trouble of creating an apparent exchange among admirers on the pages of 800Notes.com.
Irony alert: World Progress report has "A Series To Help Consumers Identify Scams" This press release has been widely publicized by other bloggers who assumed, from the references to public television, that the report is being shown on PBS. Because PBS has disclaimed any relationship with Vision Media and its ilk, the World Progress Report includes a disclaimer of affiliation with PBS, taken verbatim from the old Great America HD web site.