Media

Pentagon Pundits, Media Reform and Talking Back to Bill O'Reilly

FCC Commissioner Jonathan AdelsteinAs Paul Schmelzer wrote on the Minnesota Independent website, "There were two National Conferences on Media Reform in Minneapolis over the weekend: the one I attended and the one Bill O'Reilly, Juan Williams and Fox News talking head Mary Catherine Ham didn't."

O'Reilly's show tried to manufacture controversy about the conference, which I and others from the Center for Media and Democracy attended. But before addressing that, how about some real news on a genuinely controversial issue?

During Sunday's closing plenary, FCC Commissioner and fake news foe Jonathan Adelstein pledged to push for multiple thorough investigations of the Pentagon military analyst program. So far, the Pentagon's Inspector General and the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the investigative arm of Congress, have launched inquiries into the Defense Department's secret cultivation of military pundits. But those investigations aren't enough.

What's Green on the Outside and Has a Hummer on the Inside?

Can you green a Hummer?Discovery Communications is spending $100 million to re-make its home television network into "Planet Green," the first television channel devoted entirely to environmentally-themed programming.

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Product Placement in the City

If producers anticipated that the new movie "Sex and the City" might be a marketing bonanza, it did not disappoint. Vanity Fair magazine sent two reporters to view the movie and count the number of promotional products that appeared on-screen, including any blatantly-mentioned brand names.

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The Fever Breaks at MSNBC

Former MSNBC correspondent Jessica Yellin admitted on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 last night that during the run-up to the war, "the press corps was under enormous pressure from corporate executives, frankly, to make sure that this was a war that was presented in a way that was consistent with the patriotic fever in the nation and the president's high approval ratings." Appearing as part of a panel discussing Scott McClellan’s book, What Happen

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Congress Orders Investigation into Pentagon Pundit Scandal

By a voice vote, the U.S. Congress passed an amendment last week to the Defense Authorization Act for FY2009, forbidding the U.S. Department of Defense to engage in "propaganda purposes within the United States not otherwise specifically authorized by law." Probably more important is that the amendment requires an investigation by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) to study and report back to Congress on "the extent to which the Department of Defense has violated the prohibition on propaganda" already established in previous laws passed by Congress. The amendment was prompted by an April 20 report in the New York Times exposing the Pentagon military analyst program through which the Pentagon lobbied for war by cultivating former military officers who became regulars on Fox News, CNN and the broadcast networks. As Diane Farsetta and Sheldon Rampton have argued previously, the Pentagon pundit program broke existing laws which forbid government officials from engaging in "publicity or propaganda purposes within the United States not heretofore authorized by the Congress."

Product Placements vs. VNRs

We recently received an email from someone who asked, "What is the difference between a 'product placement' and a 'video news release' (VNR)? Is a VNR a type of product placement?" Since other people might have the same question, I thought I'd post my answer here. On SourceWatch, we have articles about both topics. As our article about video news releases explains, a VNR is a piece of video that is created (typically by a public relations firm on behalf of a paying client) and designed to look like a news segment for broadcast by TV news programs. It deceives audiences by creating the impression that the "news" they see on TV was produced by independent reporters, when in fact VNRs are promotional pieces designed to sell something for a client whose identity is not always disclosed. TV news shows often deny that they use VNRs, but Diane Farsetta, our senior researcher, has done extensive research in which she found numerous examples of the practice. "Product placement" is a separate but similarly sneaky practice of getting television programs and movies to display a company's product within their program.

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