The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced on September 21 that it was fining Comcast Corp. $4,000 for its cable channel CN8's broadcast of fake TV news, a video news release (VNR) without disclosure.
The Comcast fine is the first-ever sanction for airing a VNR, a sponsored PR video that mimics the structure and style of television news reports. The fine is a direct result of Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) investigations, and of a joint complaint filed with the FCC by CMD and Free Press.
The FCC's action against Comcast is precedent setting. It firmly rejects the public relations industry's argument that no disclosure is needed if television stations are not paid to air VNRs. Hopefully, the FCC will soon address the nearly 140 other undisclosed VNR broadcasts that were documented in CMD's two reports, "Fake TV News" and "Still Not the News."