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SportsGrid questioned ESPN's disclosure in its reporting on the poker sites recently charged by the FBI. (Credit: SportsGrid, screenshot)

Is ESPN properly disclosing its relationship to two of the three poker companies that were just charged by the FBI when reporting on those companies?

Sports blog Awful Announcing criticized ESPN for not disclosing in its on-air SportsCenter report about the criminal charges that ESPN receives sponsorship money from two of the three companies, Full Tilt and Poker Stars.

“ESPN  takes in a likely 8-figure amount of advertising and sponsorship revenue from the companies now embroiled in legal controversy,” according to Awful Announcing.

However, ESPN’s website, ESPN.com, did note in an article that Poker Stars and Full Tilt “are sponsors of ESPN poker programming.”

Awful Announcing commented:

“If you took the money, aired the programming, developed the partnerships and show formats, and got in bed with these companies, naturally you have to report about that too. Not disclosing the nature of those relationships is not only unethical but it’s bad journalism. That’s why the espn.com article makes that note at the end. “

As ESPN reported, the FBI charged PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker with “bank fraud, illegal gambling offenses and money laundering.”

ESPN’s poker columnist Gary Wise also didn’t mention ESPN’s relationship to the industry in his column of news updates.

As for changes at ESPN because of the criminal charges, Bluff Magazine reported that ESPN has taken off “the PokerStars sponsored Inside Deal from the ESPN.com website.”

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And Poker News Daily commented that the criminal charges may influence ESPN’s programming going forward as its networks are supposed to air a poker tournament.  According to Poker News Daily, an unnamed ESPN representative stated about the charges:

“We are aware of the indictment only through what has been announced publicly. For the immediate future, we are affording to remove related advertising and programming pending further review.”

iMediaEthics is writing to ESPN to ask how it intends to disclose its relationship to the poker websites. We are also emailing ESPN’s replacements for ombudsmen at Poynter and will update with any response.

UPDATE: 4/19/2011 2:44 PM EST: iMediaEthics wrote to ESPN to ask how it intends to deal with disclosing its relationship to the poker companies in its reporting on the indictments.

ESPN’s Amy Phillips responded:

“Our corporate statement is as follows, which is also being incorporated into our news reporting.

“‘We are aware of the indictment only through what has been announced publicly. For the immediate future, we are making efforts to remove related advertising and programming pending further review.’

“Plans for the 2011 WSOP have not changed and the event will air as scheduled beginning in July on ESPN.”

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