Center for Media and Democracy/Free Press: New VNR Catches Prove the Fake TV News Problem Continues
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 11, 2007
CONTACT: Center for Media and Democracy or Free Press
Diane Farsetta, CMD, (608) 260-9713
Craig Aaron, Free Press, (202) 265-1490, x25
New VNR Catches Prove the Fake TV News Problem Continues
CMD, Free Press Urge FCC to Act on Pending VNR Complaints
October 11 – The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) and Free Press today
unveiled evidence that, despite mounting pressure from the public and
the Federal Communications Commission, television stations continue
to air public relations videos without disclosure.
CMD identified three recent instances where a single television
station aired entire, pre-packaged video news releases (VNRs), which
are sponsored segments designed by PR firms to mimic genuine news
reports. The new catches, all involving WGTU-TV 29 in Traverse City,
Mich., can be seen at www.prwatch.org/fakenews3/summary.
"Stations continue to air fake TV news, even though the FCC has
repeatedly stated that VNRs must be disclosed," said Diane Farsetta,
CMD senior researcher. "While the FCC recently announced that it will
fine Comcast for five VNRs, more must be done to ensure the public's
right to know. Not disclosing fake news benefits TV stations, PR
firms and their corporate clients -- everyone except the millions of
Americans who rely on TV news daily."
In a complaint filed today with the FCC, Free Press and CMD urged the
agency to act on pending VNR complaints involving more than 100 TV
stations, and to clarify VNR disclosure requirements. The pending
complaints came out of two earlier CMD reports, "Fake TV News,"
released in April 2006, and "Still Not the News," released in
"The public has the right to know fake news when it sees it," said
Timothy Karr, campaign director of Free Press. "While the Comcast
fines are a good start, the FCC must sanction all TV stations that
violate its sponsorship identification rules. Otherwise, news viewers
will still be left in the dark."
The ongoing FCC investigation was launched in response to tens of
thousands of letters sent by concerned citizens, after they were
alerted by Free Press and CMD. In August 2006, the FCC issued letters
of inquiry to the owners of the 77 stations named in the "Fake TV
News" report. The station responses were due by mid-October 2006. The
FCC has now had this information for a year, but not acted on it.
The Comcast fines came out of the second CMD report, "Still Not the
News," which identified 34 new stations that had aired VNRs without
disclosure. The most recent VNR catches were aired by yet another
station, an ABC affiliate owned by Virginia-based Max Media LLC.
The complaint filed with the FCC today is the groups' third joint
complaint on the VNR issue. It asks the agency to investigate the
WGTU-TV VNR broadcasts and to clarify VNR disclosure requirements.
Center for Media and Democracy's "Know Fake News" report and videos:
FCC complaint from Free Press and CMD: http://www.freepress.net/docs/
Take action to stop fake news: http://action.freepress.net/campaign/
For more information, see www.prwatch.org/fakenews3/summary or
The Center for Media and Democracy is a nonprofit, public interest
organization that strengthens participatory democracy by
investigating and exposing public relations spin and propaganda, and
by promoting media literacy and citizen journalism. Learn more at
Free Press is a national, nonpartisan organization working to reform
the media. Through education, organizing and advocacy, we promote
diverse and independent media ownership, strong public media, and
universal access to communications. Learn more at www.freepress.net