NEW YORK (AP) _ These days, ``The View'' is dining out on soup that paid to get on the menu.
In the latest move to blend commercials with program content, Campbell Soup Co. has teamed up with ABC to clinch a role on ``The View'' as ``prominent sponsor'' for eight episodes of the daytime talk show.
The company paid an undisclosed sum that has underwritten production costs for remote broadcasts from Los Angeles for the New York-based show.
On Wednesday's show, viewers saw co-executive producer Bill Geddie eating his Campbell's ``soup of the day'' (beef noodle).
On Monday, co-hosts Joy Behar and Lisa Ling will vie to gather the most Campbell's Soup labels in a makeshift wind tunnel. The company will accept the labels in exchange for educational equipment to be donated to a needy school.
What's wrong with all that?
Plenty, said Bob Steele, director of the ethics program at the Poynter Institute, a St. Petersburg, Fla., media think tank.
``The problem,'' he said, ``is that `The View' contracted with Campbell's Soup in a way that guaranteed Campbell's promotional time embedded within a program that is supposed to serve the viewers' needs. Many viewers count on information-based programming, and when that programming is eroded by the sale of its content, the viewers are disserved.''
Furthermore, while the show is produced by ABC's Entertainment division, ``The View'' co-hosts include a former NBC News correspondent (Star Jones), a former CBS News ''60 Minutes'' anchor (Meredith Vieira), and, of course, current ABC News star Barbara Walters, who all bring the added credibility of journalist.
Walters (whose production company co-owns ``The View'' with ABC) denied that Campbell's tie-in with her show had compromised its integrity _ or hers as a journalist.
She noted that such a sponsor arrangement isn't unusual in television, pointing to the NBC News-produced ``Today'' show, which has a regular birthday segment sponsored by Smuckers jelly. The weekly concert series ``Today'' holds every summer is underwritten by the Egg Board.
``I don't see that that has compromised Katie or Matt,'' Walters said. As for ``The View,'' she added: ``We're not wearing Campbell's Soup T-shirts. We don't have Campbell's Soup chorus girls coming out doing high kicks.''
Just as she recuses herself from political discussions and other controversial portions of the show, she is taking no part in the Campbell's segments, she said.
And after The Wall Street Journal disclosed the tie-in, she canceled an audience participation segment in soup-sampling that had been scheduled for Tuesday's broadcast.
``I decided it was too blatant,'' Walters said, ``and I killed it.''