I got a voicemail out of the blue from the lead FCC attorney working on my Freedom of Information Act request into how the agency makes judgments on journalism. Hard to know what precipitated it, but it came a week to the day after the FCC dinged a Las Vegas TV station six figures for actively constructing fake news reports on car dealership closeout sales. Continue reading “FOIA Request Completed by Spring 2015?”
Back in 2009, Journal Broadcast Corporation’s KTNV-TV in Las Vegas ran a series of “special reports” on the liquidation sales of auto dealerships formatted like news stories, aired immediately adjacent to the station’s weekend newscasts, with a “staff person…posing as a journalist” in each one. Surprise: the dealerships paid for the “coverage.” After a five-year investigation, Journal and the FCC entered into a consent decree released on Friday that has Journal fessing up to the deception and making a voluntary contriubtion of $115,000 to the U.S. Treasury.
According to the decree, the caper was the brainchild of Vegas-area advertising agency, and the complainant was another TV station in the market. It originally alleged that three stations were involved in the pay-for-coverage business, but the FCC’s only dimed one of them. Between May and August 2009, KTNV ran 27 of these “special reports.” Continue reading “Actual Fake News Costs TV Station $115,000”
Yesterday the Center for Media and Democracy released Fake TV News: Widespread and Undisclosed. It tracks the use of some three dozen video news releases (VNRs) by television stations across America.
The use of VNRs is serious business. Companies and other special interests pay PR flacks (usually former journalists) to essentially produce generic television reports, which are then freely fed to TV stations nationwide.
Television reporters and news directors like VNRs because they’re easy fodder with which to fill a newscast, meaning fewer reporters to pay and less work needed from everyone involved. Companies like VNRs because they get free commercials masquerading as journalism. Continue reading “Pervasive Fake News Documented, FCC Shrugs”