"Still Not the News": Read the Report and Take Action!

Publicist Kate Brookes "reports" on medical advancements for KSFY-13 in Sioux Falls, SDIf you thought an ongoing Federal Communications Commission investigation—launched in response to the Center for Media and Democracy's April 2006 report "Fake TV News"—would get fake news off your television screen, think again. CMD just released its follow-up report on video news releases (VNRs), the sponsored public relations videos designed to mimic news reports. The six-month investigation, titled, "Still Not the News: Stations Overwhelmingly Fail to Disclose VNRs," names 46 stations in 22 states that inserted corporate VNRs into their newscasts. Nearly 90 percent of the time, absolutely no attempt to provide any disclosure to viewers—even when VNRs dealt with controversial issues like global warming. Read the report, watch the videos of the original VNRs and the newscasts that incorporated them—and take action! The media reform group Free Press is urging concerned citizens to contact the FCC and demand an end to fake news.


I cannot understand this quest to "expose" users of the VNR. What you are actually doing is causing fine journalists to be FIRED for an innocent mistake. Many of those targeted by your "report" did nothing more than pick something interesting off a feed and revoice it. How can this be helping news consumers? Do you people stop to think about the impact of your ridiculous inquisitions? How can you justify this? Don't we have bigger problems in this world than a 20-year-old producer trying to fill his show? I hope you can sleep at night knowing the pain you've caused to innocent people who are just trying to do a good job. Please turn your talents to something important, and please think about the impact of these nasty, smarmy "reports". Shame on you. You are creeps.

VNRs are one of the most deceptive and widely-used PR tactics. Concerns have repeatedly been raised about the undisclosed use of VNRs, by the U.S. Congress and the Government Accountability Office, in the case of government-funded VNRs; and by the Federal Communications Commission, the Radio-Television News Directors Association, and tens of thousands of concerned citizens, with regard to all VNRs. Yet, there was very little publicly-available information about VNR usage by television stations. The Center for Media and Democracy has endeavored, with its two reports, to inform the ongoing VNR debate.

When television stations are granted free use of the public airwaves, they promise to serve the "public interest, convenience and necessity," as mandated by the Communications Act of 1934. They also promise to obey FCC regulations, which include sponsorship identification requirements. However, the status quo appears to be no disclosure, as the New York Times reported in March 2005, with regard to government-funded VNRs; and as CMD's two reports attest, with privately-funded VNRs.

As television remains the number one news source in the U.S., we think undisclosed VNRs are an important issue. Not only that, but we've repeatedly documented wrong, misleading, and highly biased PR being falsely presented as news, because of VNRs. In the case of prescription drugs, VNRs have resulted in "news" segments that are less balanced than ads put out to promote the same products could be, under FDA rules.

I assume you are referring to WDTN-2's [http://www.daytondailynews.com/n/content/oh/story/news/local/2006/11/16/ddn111706nathan.html apparent firing] of Howard Nathan, who presented [https://www.prwatch.org/fakenews2/vnr52 a VNR] tracked in our new report. Based on the information that has been made public, I would say that his firing was an extreme and unfortunate reaction on the part of the station. But CMD is not responsible for that reaction.