Local business owner sued for $20 million over blog post ***UPDATED 5 p.m. FRIDAY***

When Vision Media Television first contacted Leslie Richard, who runs The Oko Box, a small eco-fashion business out of her Asheville home, she was interested.

“They said that their TV producer wanted me to be interviewed for a documentary on eco-fashion,” she says. “I talked to one of their producers, and she told me that 84 million people were going to see this. She said it would be on PBS, CNN, that it’s going to be aired all over Europe.”

Then came the kicker: VMT wanted $22,900 for production fees and $3,000 for airfare to do the program, according to Richard.

“I was shocked,” she says. “I didn’t know what to say. My store doesn’t have that kind of money.”

Richard began researching the media company and came to believe she was being scammed. She reported VMT to the Better Business Bureau and wrote about the situation on her store’s blog, referencing e-mails the company sent her and reports of what she believes are similar scams. On consumer-report Web sites like the Ripoff Report, various businesses have asserted that the scams follow a similar model: The company touts its connection with major networks or PBS and says they’ll feature the business in a segment. Later, they ask for money to defray production costs.

While no connection to CNN is mentioned on Vision’s Web site, the personal Web site for its Vice President of Programming, Matthew McMahon (the only VMT official listed on its site), touts the company’s purpose as “documentary programs for Public Television and CNN.”

Friday afternoon, CNN spokesperson Bridget Lieninger flatly denied that Vision makes documentaries for the network.

“We don’t have a production agreement with them, nor would we enter into any such agreement,” she told Xpress.

On July 17, VMT filed a federal lawsuit against Richard for defamation, trade libel and “tortious interference with business relationship.” The lawsuit claims that Richard’s blog has lost the company $5 million in business and seeks another $15 million in punitive damages. Filed in the Southern U.S. District of Florida (the company is based in Boca Raton), the lawsuit gave her 20 days to respond. The lawsuit also confirms that the company does charge $22,900 for producing an “interstitial,” a short segment that runs between longer programs.

“Who has $20 million?” Richard says, sitting on a couch in her home, next to the computer she conducts her business from. “At $20 million, legal-aid organizations generally won’t help you. Since it’s filed in the Southern District of Florida, not a lot of lawyers here are licensed to practice there.”

She’s answered the summons, writing a motion herself to try to get the lawsuit dismissed or transferred to North Carolina. “I don’t have a car, I don’t have money, so we’re trying to get it transferred here so I can find someone to represent me pro bono,” she says.

A disclaimer on the PBS Web site specifically names VMT and its program, National Report, among companies and programs that it is not associated with in any way:

“A number of businesses have contacted PBS to ask us about our relationship with the producers of various television programs carrying titles such as Giving Back, Learning About, and The National Report Series. According to representatives of these businesses, the producers have offered to feature the representatives’ businesses in a television program and indicated that the program will be made available on national public television. Based upon representations made to them by the producers, the businesses were led to believe that the producers were associated with PBS and that PBS intended to distribute or otherwise endorsed their programming.

PBS wishes to clarify that it is not associated with and does not endorse, distribute programming for, review underwriting for or otherwise have any business relationship with the following production companies: VM Television, Vision Media Television, Paradigm Media Group, PMG, PMGTV, Infinity Media Group, Roadshow Productions, Family Television Studios, United Media Communications Group, American Review TV, Business Break TV, Event Media TV, or Global Television Studios. PBS does not oversee the production or distribution of any programs associated with any of these companies.”

A letter Richard received from PBS asked her to provide any information about Vision’s original call and noted “our legal department is currently trying to track these calls.”

“On the phone they’ll say PBS, but in the e-mail and Web site they just say ‘Public Television,’” Richard asserts.

VMT’s Web site claims that the company does not deal with PBS but with individual public-television stations directly, and that its spots, mostly 2-5 minute long “adverts” touting a business or industry, reach 96 million viewers daily. Five video segments that the company claims were made for public television, featuring former 20/20 anchor Hugh Downs, appear on the site.

VM Television’s Web site has essentially the same content as Vision’s, but with slightly different logo, copyright and graphics.

In a 2006, actor Michael Douglas sued two of the other companies on PBS’ list, Paradigm and Family Television Studios (also based in Boca Raton), claiming that he’d recorded spots for them on the assumption that would be educational and non-commercial, but that they were then used to attract sponsors. The case ended in a sealed settlement.

A similar case occurred in 2003, when retired anchor Walter Cronkite backed out of a contract hosting shorts for WJMK Productions, located in the same office as Paradigm and Family Television, also stating that he’d hosted the programs thinking they would be educational in nature, rather than touting a company’s products. WJMK sued Cronkite, who countersued. A judge refused to dismiss Cronkite’s countersuit. That case was also settled.

In both the Cronkite and Douglas cases, many of the segments never aired.

A 2005 article in the Florida South Business Journal notes that PBS named 11 companies that it was not associated with (Vision and VM Television were not on the list at that time) and that eight of those 11 were located in the same two office suites in Boca Raton.

Vision Media did not return requests for comment.

Click here to go to the Xpress Files and read the lawsuit.

— David Forbes, staff writer


Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

57 thoughts on “Local business owner sued for $20 million over blog post ***UPDATED 5 p.m. FRIDAY***

  1. Trey

    That’s what happens when you snitch.

    Shoulda just refused their offer and minded your own business.

    Just say no to snitchin’.

  2. Big Nick

    It is good someone is brave enough to stand up for themselves and call someone out who is obviously doing something shady. It takes a pretty small person to leave rude comments about someone who obviously has good ethics and a good heart. Don’t listen to the sarcastic children Leslie. You should be proud of yourself.

  3. Cheshire

    You can’t say much of anything, anywhere, anymore without fear of some idiot waiting to take advantage. Best of luck getting this sorted, Leslie!

  4. DAN MAC

    I’m from the south Florida area, there are tons of scams down there. If she’d like I own a car and I’d be more than happy to take the ride and help her thru the legal process, as my family and my friends family were potential victims of companies such as this.
    Thier basis for filing suit down south is “Tada” your not there. Worst case scenario let it go to court and show up and speak your case, it will get dismissed. Or better yet get ahold of the Fl. Attorney General and DA’s office in Boca and see what happens then, gurantee it goes away.

  5. docmac

    I could give her a hand fighting this, as I’m from the S Fl area, and scams are a huge part of that community. Both my friend and my family were potential victims of scum such as this. They prey on the disabled, elderly, and ignorant to get over on people.
    We had a repair sho with my mothers car say she needed all this work done, and it wasn’t safe to drive her care etc. When she arrived to take it somewhere to get another look, they refused to give her the car due to safety concerns, then wouldn’t allow her to even see the car. I flew down to Florida arrived with a Uhaul but no car, they tried to force the issue of getting the car repaired, then pulled a knife on me.

    But living in NC around the country folks for so long, and assuming this was going to happen, they were shocked when I wield out my pistol. But car was apparently chopped and sold, they thought they had a senior citizen who had no one behind her, which most dont. $300K later and 2 30yr sentences later, moms driving a caddy.

  6. Rob Close

    Ok, this story is insane.

    However, there is a bright side for Leslie – not only do I seriously doubt she can lose in court, but she can probably win a counter-suit with any decent lawyer. These shmucks have set themselves up for a serious fall.

    Even if they aren’t a scam, they act like one. Good enough for me. Shmucks.

  7. One of our friends said that the attorney that filed this case can end up in BIG trouble as well.

    This is the type of story that national news organizations jump on. Leslie could end up with more free publicity than she ever dreamed. Don’t back down and give them hell!

  8. cwaster

    This stinks. Hang in there, be tough, and maybe the free publicity will be a bonus on the side. Best of luck!

  9. Reality Check

    My business was recently contacted by a south Florida production company who wanted $38k up front to get me on The Learning Channel. Luckily, I didn’t have the $38k and don’t have a blog.

  10. slowlocal

    File a complaint with the Consumer Protection Division of the Florida Attorney General’s office, Leslie. It’s a free service and this is probably not the first complaint of this type they’ve received.

    Stay strong, woman, you can beat this and come out ahead!

  11. FXMartini

    I think Trey probably works for VMT. Nothing else explains his comment… ;-)

  12. Trey

    Maybe I should put it in eco-hippie terms. It’s called bad karma. You rat on someone, something bad happens to you, simple.

    I agree that these people suing the girl are the worst kind of scumbag….. but you still don’t snitch, and then whine about it on your blog.

  13. Reality Check

    Interesting thought process Trey. Pointing out what you call a ‘scumbag’ is snitching? You’re in favor of letting ‘scumbags’ prey on ‘non-scumbags’ unabatedly? A ‘scumbag’ feeding frenzy with unlimited meat? If VMT is legit and you libel/slander – not sure where a blog fits in there – them, then they deserve recourse. However, your snitching concept is troubling. If I see someone break into your house and I inform you who did it, am I ‘snitching’? Would you rather me keep quiet and then buy your favorite stuff at the local pawn shop later?

  14. Soooo, Consumer Reports or the Better Business Bureau are “snitches?” Or say one person murders another then tells a friend. If that friend “snitches,” is that also bad?

    I’m curious to know if VMT mentioned the production costs upfront, or if they were buried deep in a contract.

  15. Rob Close

    trey is just being a rabble-rouser – or he’s utterly insane. either way, ignore idiots – all they want is attention.

    and yeah, more details about how VMT operates would be great.

  16. Reality Check

    As I mentioned earlier, my company was approached by a 3rd party production company from South Florida that works with many TV stations. The process was that they had a lock on a certain amount of TV time that TLC Designing Spaces Show had allocated for this company to fill. They wanted all the money up front. They would take payments, but all money had to be paid prior to filming. I found no ‘complaints’ about them. I had to pass. However, this story makes me think back to questions I would ask now that I didn’t know to ask prior.

  17. jen

    i know a business owner that gets these offers weekly. you have to do research and not agree. too good to be true..= probably is.
    too bad for her.

  18. sara

    Obviously..VMT is in the right. She should not have told the whole world about them doing wrong..when they didn’t. The woman she spoke to on the phone may have said some wrong things but she should have done her research before blasting them with bad words. She didn’t know the whole story. Teaches us to use the internet wisely. Comments or suggestions are ok..but not this. I don’t think VMT has anything to worry about as far as a lawsuit. They have the grounds to sue..store owner does not.

  19. mrmonster

    Our legal system is sickening. That VMT, whose business model relies on misrepresentatiton (whether on the website or through the representative speaking on behalf of her employer) can harass a small business owner in this way is vomit enducing in and of itself. That their justification is Ms Richard’s very honesty, good-character, and concern for others who would be taken advantage of is the stuff of bile and dry heaves.

  20. chuck

    the above posting from ‘sara’ is insane. thisd is not ‘snitching’ people. get a life. if i saw a car hit your cat, and got the liscence plate as it sped off, should i not tell you in fear of ‘snitching”? you people breath through your mouths.

  21. jen

    this was not a scam.
    so please stop saying it is…
    it is a business that skims the edges to get clients. to sell, you don’t have to be totally upfront about everything..she should have gotten legal advice before agreeing to anything or a contract.
    i have spoken to these people before. VMT..
    they say that you have to pay upfront for the fees after they do their pitch. you have to ask about the fees..otherwise they assume you will pay.
    they call us all the time trying to get us to do it. we just say no..
    sounds like Leslie did not listen to them.
    every business has a ‘catch’ that communicates via internet or phone.
    their site clearly states what they do.
    (and I do not work for them)
    stop playing victim and do research.
    i honestly don’t think they’ll get a penny from her..but she needs to consider removing blogs like this. she’s only making it worse to allow others to post more remarks on it. the lawsuit is not going to backfire on them..please..they’ve not got anything to lose here.
    a lesson to everyone.
    be careful of what you put on the internet that directly bad-mouths a person or business, read between the lines and don’t be a sucker..
    thinking that someone is going to invest in your local business and make it a national wonder is really silly. Like a one-in-a-million chance. She got stars in her eyes and then got mad when she realized she screw up. hope she turns out ok..but she will have hopefully learned a lesson in internet etiquette.

  22. Dear moderator,

    thanks for approving my comment. I don’t see how it was any worse than the other ones here. Very cool of you to not approve it. Most appreciated from the deepest places in my heart. Sincerely, thank you for not approving what I have to say. I love when I waste time and nobody hears me. That makes me feel so warm inside and right now I am boiling over with happiness at your lack of approving my comment.

    Thanks so much. Seriously. No sarcasm here. I really, really am happy. I’m just so, I mean, I’m at a loss. There are no words to describe the tears of joy running down my cheeks.

    Warmest wishes and thoughts,

  23. Reality Check

    Jim .. rephrase it in PG. I’m dying to know. I’ve had one or two that didn’t make it and wondered why. Especially when I read some others that are very mean spirited and personally attack another poster.

  24. The Nick

    It’s funny. Now there are “women” suddenly coming to the defense of VMT. This exact same thing happened on Leslie’s blog. Obviously they are representatives of VMT. You can even see the similarities in writing style. They both have a single generic sounding female name, use …. in between thoughts, both reference proper use of the internet. Exactly what they were doing on her blog. Not very intelligently on their either I have to add.

    “Blasting them with bad words”, “lesson in internet etiquette”, come on what normal person responding to an article says stuff like that? Still, creepy puritanical weirdness nonetheless.

  25. samantha

    So “Jen” (who doesn’t work for Vision Media Television), you’re saying Vision Media Television’s clients are suckers?

  26. Reality Check: I really didn’t even go PG 13 :) Anyways, Trey’s comments kind of urked me.

    The logic of ‘don’t snitch’ seems rather hypocritical to me, especially when it comes to ‘if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.’

    It seems rather ignorant to me, to go blasting someone for snitching. Especially when, at least I thought, the word snitch refers to an ‘informant’, which is to notify an authority such as the cops or something like that. Blogging an opinion to me seems not necessarily fit the true definition of the word.

    Regardless, the absurdity of $20 million dollars bothers me quite a bit. Just the other day, one of CNN’s headlines was ‘Allman Brothers sue record label for 13 million’. That seems fitting when you consider just how much cash both parties probably have on hand. For a shady company (by shady I refer to their BBB rating) to sue someone for this amount is so far beyond ridiculous I can barely comprehend it.

    In my eyes, this is a predator seeking easy prey. And for someone to blog about being unhappy about how they were approached or treated… I fail to see how that is snitching. Trey’s comments are baseless and contribute nothing. As Orbit mentions above, by this reasoning the BBB is snitching. I’m not sure about this, but I guarantee the BBB has saved a LOT OF PEOPLE from potentially bad things and huge $$ over the course of it’s existence. In fact I’d be hard pressed to find someone that thinks the BBB is a bad thing.

    I hope this comment gets posted. I am not trying to knock anyone (other than Trey for his seemingly hypocritical comments).

  27. Samantha, that’s exactly what it sounds like to me. Only Mountain X would probably be able to tell who that commenter is (probably they can see the IP address in their stats, and track that back to a particular location).

    But for any company to outright say that it ‘skims the edges’ is just flat out unethical business practices. As a small business owner, this type of thing infuriates me, because stuff like this directly impacts the food on my kitchen table. Companies that operate shady practices online only hurt the rest of us… legal loophole or not. In my 15 years of internet business, I have run into my share of shady businesses. All these types of faux businesses do is erode the confidence of legitimate, upstanding business owners. It raises operating costs, and also increases what we have to charge, because we have to take so many measures to protect ourselves. It’s an absolute shame.

  28. tatuaje

    yep…I hope Mountain X does a little “research” to see if any “posters” on this thread are affiliated with VMT….that would definitely add to the story and be a big boon to Leslie’s case…

    Good luck, Leslie….CNN & PBS have apparently both called VMT liars, so hopefully a judge will throw this out after a first look…

    And Leslie, maybe you should follow Cronkite’s example and counter-sue….

  29. I am also a small business owner, and we are scammed from every direction: bad customers, the government and shady businesses. Remember the scam where someone would call for light bulb replacements? Or there was one in West Asheville last year for an Asheville map. Or the carpet cleaners. See why someone can be a little paranoid?

    I looked at the BBB for South Florida and there were two complaints that were dealt with, so VMT’s complaint might not be totally unfounded. However, most of these issues are usually dealt with a stern letter from a lawyer, not a lawsuit.

    If they say that they are losing money because of a blog, then I suspect one of two things. Either a) the company is losing tons of money and needs cash or b) revenge.

    For those here that know or work for VMT. How do they sell these spots. Are costs DEFINITELY mentioned upfront? Why does she need a lawyer to agree to anything? Why is VMT soliciting small businesses?

    Remember if the national media gets a hold of this then Goliath will have a hard time beating David.

  30. I vividly remember the carpet cleaners. It’s such a shame that scumbags like this are out there but like anything else there’s always turds floating in the water.

    In this case, I believe costs were brought up on the tail end of several conversations… ‘oh by the way’ kind of deal… but don’t quote me on that.

    I would think that shady companies would prefer to target smaller businesses, with the mindset that small business = less money for legal representation. I know the flip side to that though is, what small biz has millions around.

  31. jen

    It’s funny. Now there are “women” suddenly coming to the defense of VMT. This exact same thing happened on Leslie’s blog. Obviously they are representatives of VMT. quote -“The Nick”

    >in reference to this..hahaha. This whole thing needs to end. It just creates more press for everyone. It is not worth the effort everyone is putting in to it.

    “Blasting them with bad words”, “lesson in internet etiquette”, come on what normal person responding to an article says stuff like that?
    quote -“The Nick”

    >No, I am not affiliated with VMT at all. I work for a local doctor. so..yes, you are wrong. I just don’t know or care about Leslie at all. So I am not biased in either direction. I am just giving my opinion on what is right and what is wrong. As I’ve seen in Asheville, if there is an ‘issue’ that comes up that is between a ‘victim’ and an outsider..they get very confrontational and biased even though they do not know either party..not even knowing all the facts. Both parties are at fault. What they choose to do is their business. It is only made public by Leslie. I don’t care who wins or loses, I just care about the fact that people seem to become so closed-minded when the facts are explored futher. People do not want to know more..they are happy with Leslie’s view alone and the fact the money is involved makes the other business the ‘bad guys’. Do some research.

    Still, creepy puritanical weirdness nonetheless.
    >I just do not believe that everyone in Asheville is my ‘friend’ or buddy and I am not part of Community’ville and I do not support everyone based on their word alone…local or not. Asheville is not some big family.

  32. Jen, Asheville is not the only town where a community would come together to support right vs. wrong. There are cities that also take up for people that are targeted.

    This isn’t some freak of nature town, it’s pretty much like any other town. This is how communities work… what a concept. By your reasoning, the BBB is an organization at fault?

  33. The Nick

    Jen- If you are indeed who you say you are it is amazing how easily you would be mistaken for someone who would try to take advantage of a small business owner with the mindset you are showing. It’s interesting also to me for someone who “doesn’t care who wins or loses” would search out other articles about this and paste and copy your exact responses.

    You talk about biased opinions without knowing all the facts. Where are you getting all of your information and opinions from? Hmm?

  34. “>I just do not believe that everyone in Asheville is my ‘friend’ or buddy and I am not part of Community’ville and I do not support everyone based on their word alone…local or not. Asheville is not some big family.”

    I moved here BECAUSE of the community. Try living anywhere else in the Southeast for awhile and you’ll see why this place is so special.

  35. Reality Check

    It took the second phone call for the company that called me to talk about the money.

  36. chuck

    this ‘jen’ person is obviously quite scared that VMT is getting such bad press. I guess VMT didnt realize that people who live in asheville DO stick up for each other, especially when some slimy, Floridian group tries to run a scam, and then sue for a rediculous amount of money.

    I hope VMT loses their briches.

  37. travelah

    Jim, don’t swerat teh mods … they pulled my tongue in cheek comment as well.

  38. Samantha

    ‘Jen’, who has only a mild interest in this issue yet felt compelled to look it up in other outlets and cut and paste her comments from one to another, reminded me how much I love to cut and paste. Ahhh fond childhood memories I have of cutting and pasting. Forgive me for indulging in a little cutting and pasting of some comments left about people’s encounters with Vision Media Television at The Oko Box blog… Note the aggressive tactics of the ‘producer’ insisting on speaking with the boss. They are determined to speak with whomever is in charge and stroke his/her ego to make the sale. The personal assistant/pr/bullshit detector is their worst enemy.
    Echo said…
    I work for an architecture firm in Phoenix – I just got off of the phone with one of these jerks. He said his name was Darren and fed me the whole “Hugh Downs”, Discovery Channel, Public TV bit. I could smell that something wasn’t right, and once he mentioned the 25 grand I knew what was up. He then demanded that I commit right then. When I asked for more info, in writing etc, he asked who I needed to show it to. He demanded a conference call with my boss! Absolutely demanded. When I said that she was busy and that I would present the information to her, he became VERY bitchy and said that he had loads of other people just LINING up for this spot, so if I couldn’t commit then we were out of the running. Oh woe is me. Tear. Sad face. What a jerk.

    March 7, 2008 1:09 PM

  39. Alissa

    I’m not sure how Rev. Dr. C Matthew McMahon reconciles his religious beliefs with his behaviour and that of his staff at Vision Media Television. Does his financial prosperity, no matter how it is achieved, lead him to believe that he is among the elect? Or is he doing the world a service by targeting pagan environmentalists? Yes, perhaps that is part of his justification. Please, Rev. Dr. McMahon, enlighten us.

  40. Alissa

    What a great idea Samantha. I too enjoy cutting and pasting. Here is comment cut and paste from the Oko Box Blog about another company’s close encounter with Vision Media Television. I think this a good, thorough description of their bait and switch tactics:

    Chelsea Craft said…
    Thanks for the heads up! They contacted me regarding my mineral cosmetics company. Their angle was outrageous. They originally stroked my ego by saying they found my website & read what I wrote about healthy cosmetics & the dangerous ingredients in cosmetics & were interested in my appearing in a educational documentary series with Hugh Downs about the dangers in cosmetics & my healthy cosmetics.

    He told me they would like me to be a GUEST speaker for a DOCUMENTARY which was being hosted by Hugh Downs. He said it was a series THEY are producing for public education which would be broadcast on public television called The National Report. He completely had me convinced it was a public educational documentary & they were approaching me because of my “expertise” on cosmetic safety issues.

    He asked me questions as if he was interviewing me to see if his company actually would consider me as a viable candidate for this guest speaker position they were looking for. In the end he said that he was satisfied that I was exactly what they were looking for but that I must realize that this was NOT ADVERTISING. He stressed repeatedly that I would have to be OK with the fact that my company name would be mentioned however the “project” they are working on is not an infomercial or advertisement for my products in any way. He said it was merely a public service announcement telling people about how my company works to promote safety in cosmetics, not about our products specifically. I was fine with that.

    Then he lowered the boom with the price that I would pay for their production services. I thought, wait a minute, this is YOUR PROJECT, you invited ME to be a GUEST speaker. You must be joking!

    He slipped up by telling me that they market the series to public television station as well as overseas to Europe & others. He name dropped like crazy. He told me that a famous publisher of a book on cosmetic safety is overseeing the project, which I won’t mention to keep her name out of this scandal.

    But the main point is, he told me it was a legitimate documentary project for public education that his company was producing. He stressed it was not anything about advertising my company or speaking about my products but only about giving educational information to the public about their health & safety when using cosmetics.

    Why should I pay their costs for filming THEIR project? I mean does Sesame Street tell the parents of the kids who will be appearing as guests on the show that they have to pay for the entire show to be produced just because their kid is going to get some exposure from it? Well that is how RIDICULOUS his proposition was.

    Furthermore, this thing about Hugh Downs hosting the series is another farce. They somehow employed Mr. Downs to film ONE intro clip & exit clip that is very non-specific & generic in his language. They simply paste the exact same intro & closing remarks onto your film, and everyone’s films, with the pretense that it is some educational series. I was told that the documentary I would appear in may be shown on CNN between breaks on prime time shows with Lou Dobbs & Nancy Grace & others.

    Reading the posts on this column I see quite a few posts that look as though they were placed here by Vision Media themselves defending the idea that advertising costs money. (And btw, don’t bother trying to sue me, Vision Media, I said the words “look as though” as a disqualifying statement). The problem with every one of those comments is that it was NOT advertising we were approached for.

    When a LEGITIMATE production company who is shooting a documentary contacts someone they would like to make a GUEST appearance in their documentary, the legitimate company has already paid for their own production costs & are in the process of producing the show. The guest is never asked to pay to produce a show even if it is a biography on themselves. A guest is a guest not a client.

    You can see guest appearances everywhere. From your local news stations to prime time talk shows or even on public television. Those guests do not cover the costs of producing those shows. Not unless the show is their idea & they HIRE a production company to produce something for them, but then they are not a GUEST on their own show either. Every night on David Letterman guests appear. They certainly are not EVER asked to pay the show’s production fees! Trust me they get plenty of global exposure for FREE! In fact, in a great many cases the guest is the one who is paid for their appearance & the exposure is merely a perk of appearing.

    Case in point… did Hugh Downs PAY Vision Media for the production fees for his intro & closing clips? NO WAY. Mr. Downs was PAID. Well, by the logic Vision Media is tossing around, Mr. Downs is getting more “exposure” & advertising than anyone else from this so called “project”. Why didn’t HE pay the production fees for his part? Why was HE paid for his appearance?

    That’s just not how things work & anyone saying it is is duping people. I suggest that any of the comments here that support this con game are planted here by employees. (Vision Media can’t sue me, I said SUGGEST which is not a definitive.) Who else would bother to post here in support of this nonsense just as a way of having a general opinion? No one.

    Sorry guys, but your story just doesn’t wash. You would have had a much closer chance at getting me to buy your product if you would have been upfront & told me the real deal. If my marketing budget for my small little company did have 23k to throw away it may have been fun. But paying your production fees for a public service announcement that is YOUR PROJECT & you are going to sell the films to television stations & make a profit… no way! That’s insane.

    I was contacted again to say that I must be confused & that they in no way market the films we pay them to produce. Wow, that’s an about face from everything he originally told me to get me hooked.

    If I want a film clip for my website or educating my employees I’ll shoot one myself! It’s not like a video camera, a backdrop, some lighting & a couple of chairs is going to cost you 23k!

    Most of all, he repeated at least ten times that it IS NOT ADVERTISING and that I had to be ok with my part being simply to offer facts about cosmetic safety to the general public. So don’t give me that bull about I should know that advertising costs money. Yeah I know that. I hang up on advertising sales calls that get past my assistant every day. This was just their way of avoiding my hanging up on them.

    It’s called “bait & switch”. They play on your ego, flatter you, & tell you they really NEED your expertise. You take the bait then they drop the bomb that you are supposed to pay them for needing you so badly.

    What’s more, Christian never once mentioned any guarantee my film would ever be aired. He merely said it would be in a collection that was available for public television stations to select from if they wanted to AND that it would be posted on YouTube.com & other cheesy things like that.

    This is clearly a very clever & elaborate con game. I’m so glad that I never commit to anything without researching it thoroughly. Thanks for this opportunity to share my experience so others don’t fall for it.

    Really, if you are selling custom media marketing videos just say so.

    Telling me I can help you save the world from dangerous chemicals in cosmetics is really below the belt. Our company works to educate people not to use products with chemicals & nanoparticles so they won’t get cancer & diseases from those products. Playing on that altruistic quality in my company to scam money from us is downright disgusting.

    March 22, 2008 5:42 AM

  41. Reality Check

    Interesting Hugh wouldn’t comment on this. Sounds like he needs a driveway ambush so everyone can get some answers.

  42. whocaresanymore

    Wow, this just goes on and on. Does anyone work anymore? Who has the time? Anyway. Honestly, I am tired of the topic and lost interest a few days after first reading this story. Learn a lesson and move on. After seeing her blog I am convinced that she has too much time on her hands. She posts a blog nearly every day of the month. I am glad that she stands by her causes, but it seems she needs to put her time to better use, like making some more clothes? Or possibly some charity work? Maybe she should consider working full-time for a local eco-friendly business that recycles or something similar. The blogging just seems to cause trouble and, in the long run, is just a means to rant and rave and does not get anything done.

  43. I care anymore. Blogging done correctly is not a waste of time. It’s a fantastic way to quickly present RELEVANT content to web users. There is a reason blogs are so popular. Blogs are also a great marketing tool for website owners. The more useful information a blog contains, the more traffic from search engines you can receive.

    If you actually read her blog, you’d probably see that she writes blog articles about making clothing. If you knew more about the subject of blogging, perhaps you’d know that when using ad revenue programs such as Google AdSense, a small portion of the ads displayed are public service announcements-which more often than not support charities and non-profit events.

    So, by blogging, she is already doing exactly what you recommended her to be doing. Talk about irony (or ignorance?).

  44. Felix

    If you don’t care anymore, why on earth are you here commenting???!!! You people give me hysterics!!

  45. jane

    I think another cut and paste testamonial about Vision Media Television is in order. This, taken from The Oko Box blog, is yet another small business owner telling an all too familiar story about a phone call from a VMT ‘producer.’

    Anonymous said…
    I was luck enough to receive TWO phone calls referencing three completely different people Linda Sheilds, Scott (something or other) and John (barely pronouncable last name).

    Red flags went up during my return call back to Linda Sheilds who pitched a non-profit oriented “giving back” segment that would be promoted on PBS, CNN and the internet. As others have commented the sales people did not call to SELL their services, they claimed to be seeking organizations to “feature” on their successful program, encouraging people to give back to the community.

    While I was on the phone with “Linda” I was looking at their sample clips of supposed successful promotions. The very first one I looked at had only something like 90 views on Google video… that did not strike me as a successful internet promotion!

    I could feel the sales pitch building to a request for money and I was right – $22,900 plus $3,000 to fly in a crew and their equipment.

    Had they called as a company that could help us produce a promotional package, it would have seemed like an honest – yet unaffordable for my organization – sales pitch.

    It wasn’t.

    July 8, 2008 12:27 PM

  46. jane

    All of these people used to work for Paradigm Media Group. Paradigm was sued by actor Michael Douglas back in 2006. According to the BBC, Douglas “agreed to host the Learning About series on the basis that it was educational and non-commercial. But he says the segments he recorded were used to drum up sponsorship for episodes which were never broadcast.”
    Dr. C. Matthew McMahon, John Mimnaugh and Linda L. Galligan(aka Linda “Shields”) all worked for Paradigm Media Group. A name change was undoubtedly necessary after all that negative publicity. Enter, Vision Media Television. These people are the scum of the earth. They deliberately mislead small business owners and non-profits…those least likely to have the money for legal recourse. If there is a hell, they will surely rot there. We can only hope that they’ve not reproduced.

  47. agatha

    More cut and paste fun from the Oko Box Blog:

    Anonymous said…
    Contacted us today as well.

    It always sounds so great when they call (foot in the door with some charm).

    At first, I didn’t catch the precise name of the company in the VM message, but did a little cyber sleuthing with some of the clues. Their web site is “under construction” and calling the phone number that was left in the message, it was a slightly different company name by their answering service.

    Obviously, transitions are occurring there, so let us all be ready.

    Too bad they cannot offer a fair market price.

    September 24, 2008 8:30 PM

  48. felix

    more cut and paste….

    September 24, 2008 11:08 PM
    Anonymous said…
    These people have more corporate names than seashells in Florida. I have asked them for current exposurs and placements on PBS or cable or anyplace….got nothing. I have a feeling this is like sending out a press release…your film goes out and just sits. Sorry the last company spent so much on this…recourse is zero, in my opinion. Have it in writing? Maybe the FL attorney general would be interested.

    September 25, 2008 9:46 AM

  49. LocalViz

    Wow, I hadn’t heard about this. Amazing story, sounds like there were a lot of “sealed settlements.” How is a small local business expected to fend of something like this? Watch what you write about people, I think that’s the lesson here.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.