06 April, 2006

Media Watchdog Groups Accuse TV Stations Of Airing "Fake News"; 5 New York Stations - 3 In NYC - On The List

Five television stations in New York state, including three in New York City - the nation's largest TV market - are among 77 stations that have been identified by two media watchdog groups as having used what the groups are calling "fake-news" reports in their broadcasts.

The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) and FreePress released results of a media monitoring study, done by the CMD, which documented use of video news releases and "satellite media tours" in local television news broadcasts.

Video news releases are produced by professional communication companies on behalf of private companies or government agencies in a format that makes them look just like any other report shown in a news broadcast. The so-called satellite media tours are one-on-one interviews done by satellite and arranged by a PR firm in advance of release of a new product, movie, book etc... Kind of a satellite-based book tour.

In their report, the watchdog groups accused the stations of passing off the canned reports as their own work.

"In each case, these 77 television stations actively disguised the sponsored content to make it appear to be their own reporting. In almost all cases, stations failed to balance the clients' messages with independently gathered footage or basic journalistic research. More than one-third of the time, stations aired the pre-packaged VNR in its entirety," the watchdog groups said in a summary of their study.

According to the CMD, 69 of the stations aired video news releases, none disclosed the clients that were behind the production of the releases and often the stations disguised the releases as their own reporting.

"In every VNR broadcast that CMD documented, the TV station altered the VNR's appearance. Newsrooms added station-branded graphics and overlays, to make VNRs indistinguishable from reports that genuinely originated from their station. A station reporter or anchor re-voiced the VNR in more than 60 percent of the VNR broadcasts, sometimes repeating the publicist's original narration word for word," the report said.

The media wathdogs named WCBS-TV (channel 2) , WPIX TV (channel 11) and NY1 in New York City among those stations it studied that used either video news releases or the pre-arranged promotional satellite interviews. WKBW (channel 7) in Buffalo and WSYR (channel 9) in Syracuse were also named. The CMD's report summary did not say which of the stations used video news releases, which used the satellite interviews and which, if any, used both. But it did provide a copy of one report done by WCBS-TV and the VNR it was derived from.

To view the list of television stations CMD claims used the canned resources click here.

To view a list of the allegedly fake reports and view the footage click here.

To read a summary of, and view the report which the CMD said was aired by WCBS-TV in New York, as well as the original video news release, click here.

The Radio-Television News Directors Association, in testimony before the FCC last June, argued that the use of VNRs is not wide spread and advocated that they continue to be available to editors for use. In its testimony, the RTNDA said it's code of ethics provides that "electronic journalists clearly disclose the origin of information and label all materials provided by outsiders."

The issue was hot lost summer when the Government Accountability Office criticized the Bush administration for pervasive use of the VNRs by various governmental agencies.


At 7:28 AM, Anonymous Sam said...

This is a great report on how the sources that people routinely reply on for information have been abusing the trust that's placed in them.

The only way anyone who has the authority to run these propaganda reports can do so is if they simply don't care about the role of the journalist and the news organization. And if they don't care, why are they in that business?

I prefer the days when news wasn't a for-profit business, but rather something that the networks did to meet the "public interest" standard of their broadcast license. What can possibly be in the public interest in replaying corporate or government propaganda?


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