NEWS RELEASE: CMD Commends FCC Investigation of Fake TV News

For Immediate Release

Contact: Diane Farsetta or John Stauber, 608-260-9713

Center for Media and Democracy Commends FCC Investigation of Fake TV News

(Madison, WI 8/14/06) Diane Farsetta, senior researcher with the non-profit watchdog group Center for Media and Democracy, released the following statement regarding the announcement by the Federal Communications Commission of its investigation of the fake TV news scandal documented by CMD. The FCC investigation was requested in a formal complaint filed in April 2006, by CMD and the media reform group Free Press. Diane Farsetta is the co-author of the report that triggered the FCC investigation, "Fake TV News: Widespread and Undisclosed."

With its investigation into every television station named in our April 2006 report "Fake TV News," the FCC is signaling that it takes the undisclosed use of video news releases (VNRs) seriously. The FCC should be highly commended, since VNRs deceive the public by disguising corporate ads or government propaganda as "news."

Our ongoing research indicates that TV stations will not disclose VNRs, unless and until the FCC takes action. We hope that its investigation will lead the FCC not only to sanction known offenders, but also to strengthen disclosure requirements for fake news.


Below is the text of the August 14, 2006, news release from the Federal Communications Commission:


August 14, 2006


Adelstein Committed to Full and Thorough Investigation

Washington, D.C. – The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has issued 42 Letters of Inquiry to 77 broadcast licensees to determine whether the source of video news releases (VNR) was properly disclosed during news broadcasts. In response to this unprecedented probe, Commissioner Adelstein releases the following statement:

I’m pleased that the Commission has issued these letters of inquiry. We need a full and thorough investigation to learn all of the facts surrounding the undisclosed broadcast of what appears to be commercial material, and prosecute any violations to the full extent of the law.

The public is misled by individuals who present themselves to be independent, unbiased experts or reporters, but are actually shills promoting a prepackaged corporate agenda. The public has a legal right to know who seeks to persuade them so they can make up their own minds about the credibility of the information presented. Shoddy practices make it difficult for viewers to tell the difference between news and propaganda.

On April 13th, 2005 the Commission unanimously adopted, on a bipartisan basis, a Public Notice (PN) reminding the media of its responsibilities. The PN said: “…..whenever broadcast stations and cable operators air VNRs, licensees and operators generally must clearly disclose to members of their audience the nature, source and sponsorship of the material that they are viewing.” The Commission said that it would “take appropriate enforcement action against entities that do not comply with these rules.”

If the Commission determines after investigation that a licensee has violated sponsorship identification rules, the FCC may impose monetary fines of up to $32,500 per violation, and initiate license revocation proceedings against licensees. Section 507 of the Communications Act establishes civil and criminal penalties for violation of disclosure requirements, with the possibility of a fine of up to $10,000 and as much as a year of imprisonment.