One Stimulus Response: Fake News

"You can't pretend like you are broadcasting news when it is a paid advertisement," said Senator Claire McCaskill, urging the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to take action against "ads that mimic newscasts, with actors or even news anchors from a TV station," reports Broadcasting & Cable. McCaskill -- who previously called for a full investigation into the Pentagon's "America Supports You" PR program -- is "particularly concerned about stimulus money ads masquerading as news." She was speaking at a Senate subcommittee hearing on advertising trends and consumer protection. David Vladeck of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection told McCaskill, "Where we see an infomercial masquerading as real news, we will add a charge. But in our view, given our enforcement priorities, the principal actor has to be the FCC." In response to the Center for Media and Democracy's reports on video news releases, the Federal Communications Commission announced its first-ever fines for undisclosed fake news. McCaskill advised marketers to clean up their act, adding, "I will follow-up with the FCC."


"... fines for not fake news..."

Hypothetically: Fox News gets fined, according to this law, and what... the Pentagon pays the fines?

I think you may be confusing two different kinds of fake news (of the many kinds out there). The FCC fines were for television stations that aired [[video news releases]], without disclosing to viewers the sponsor that paid to produce the video. This situation falls under the FCC's sponsorship identification rules, which [:node/6504|I've described previously].

With Pentagon-related fake news -- like the [:pentagonpundits|Pentagon pundits] -- the issue is more a breach of the law banning taxpayer funds going towards domestic "propaganda or publicity" campaigns. In this case, if the law were to be enforced, it may not involve a fine at all, but a change in actions, policies and/or oversight -- which would be the most important thing to do, in my opinion.

Video news releases are evidence of the incompetence or corruption of a broadcaster. There might be legitimate use for them, but even if they were acceptable they should have copious disclaimers. One is that "this clip is not produced by any broadcast or cable news service and is offered without cost to this station by the group "Polluters Are Your Friends".

We need to resuscitate the Fairness Doctrine.

I have seen ads for "credit relief" that use statements from the President as if from a press conference followed by a pitch that claims that the government wants people to use credit relief, themselves followed by a pitch for a specific credit "credit reliever" with "Act now! Time is not on your side!"

This is commercial and not political, but it too is abuse. I can look the other way at car dealers shouting "Yes, We Can!" in a context that leaves no ambiguity that it is a sales pitch, especially when "Yes, We Can" applies to getting credit approved for a customer. But use of the President's image as backup for a sales pitch is abominable.