Monday, May 23, 2022

WPLG, Channel 10 in Ft. Lauderdale, Upholds the Meaning of the Fourth Estate

In 2009 my wife, Nancy, and I were fortunate enough to have lunch at the Capital Grill in Washington D.C. with the famous journalist, Bob Woodward, of “Watergate” fame. We and nine other dealers were invited by Toyota as a way thanking us for our performance in sales and customer satisfaction. Bob Woodward said something at lunch that I’ve never forgotten…He told us his greatest fear affecting the USA and the world was that the media is failing to fulfill its vital role to report all the news fearlessly, completely, honestly, and ethically.

The media in America is unlike that anyplace else in the world. You might dislike the media because you don’t agree with their political leanings or their dwelling on the bad news vs. good, but there’s one thing we can say good about the American media…they can be, and are often highly critical of our political leaders, powerful companies, and most anybody they choose to target. Freedom of the press is very real and powerful in the USA. Today we talk a lot about “fake news”, exaggerated news, and focusing on the sensational and worst news. But we all know that our media is “head and shoulders” above what we see in Russia, China, and many other countries.
When our forefathers wrote the Declaration of Independence and our Constitution, they wanted to guarantee freedom of the press against tyrants, meaning our government and its leaders. Maybe they didn’t foresee what the elements of capitalism, which also set America apart from most other countries, would have on honesty and transparency in the media.
The media in America are made up of digital, print, audio, and video generating companies that are part of our capitalistic society dependent on earning a profit by selling a product or service. If a newspaper, radio station or a TV channel is to survive they need to sell advertising and/or subscriptions. This means that large advertisers wield heavy influence on the media in which they advertise, whether it be Facebook, Google, local newspapers, radio stations or TV channels.
I personally experienced this phenomenon a few years ago when my radio show, Earl Stewart on Cars, on Seaview radio in North Palm Beach was canceled because the local car dealers threatened to boycott advertising on the station if Seaview continued to broadcast my show on “how not to get ripped off by a car dealer.”
This is especially true of local media. For example, in South Florida if you turn on your TV to a broadcast channel, you’ll likely see a car dealer, lawyer, or a pharmaceutical company advertisement. Without this advertising revenue, these TV channels might go broke.
A couple of weeks ago, I received a call from investigative reporter, Jeff Weinsier, of WPLG, Channel 10 in Ft. Lauderdale. He’d read some of my blogs and seen some of my YouTubes on how not to be taken advantage of by car dealers and asked if I would agree to be interviewed on WPLG, Channel 10. I agreed, did so, and the TV spot aired a short time ago. The subjects were “Why are car dealerships adding extra fees to those buying out their leases and Did you pay a dealer fee when buying out your lease” If so, you’re entitled to a refund, attorney says."

I told the WPLG reporter, Jeff Weinsier, at the time of the interview, how much I respected and admired WPLG for having the courage to go after dishonest car dealers. I told him that I’d been interviewed often by reporters on this subject only to have the story quashed by the TV station or newspaper’s editors. In fact, this happened a few years ago at WPLG. I think we were both a little surprised and relieved when our interview was allowed to air.
If you’re driving a leased car today (about one-third of all drivers are), you can purchase your leased car back from the leasing company at the end of the lease for a very low price, thousands below the actual value. You have an option to purchase the car at the price the leasing company anticipated before the covid pandemic and resulting spike in used and new car prices. The Consumer Leasing Act of 1976 by the Federal Trade Commission guarantees that you can buy your leased car at the option price and that the dealer cannot add any additional charges to the option price. You do have to pay the state’s government fees for sales tax and license plate.
There are two lawyers now in the process of suing a lot of South Florida dealerships for violating the Consumer Leasing Act. Almost all car dealers are breaking this law too and if you are being victimized, you can call either of these two lawyers to help you: Joshua Feygen at 954 697-0357 or Jonathan Kane at 954 523-5123.
Hopefully more TV channels and other media will have the courage to follow the lead of WPLG Channel 10 in Ft. Lauderdale. Virtually every car dealer in Florida including Palm Beach county, all the way north to Duval county, Jacksonville, are violating the Consumer Leasing Act and many other laws on unfair and deceptive trade practices.

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