Monday, October 09, 2006


CMD says it refutes criticisms leveled by broadcasters over "fake news" investigation

Center for Media and Democracy, Madison, Wis.

HEADLINE: "Issues Full Rebuttal of Claims Made by the Radio-Television
News Directors Association"

"MADISON, Wis. -- The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) released today a full rebuttal of claims made against its April 2006 report, "Fake TV News: Widespread and undisclosed" ( ). The report tracked television stations' use of video news releases (VNRs), narrated pre-packaged segments produced by public relations firms for their clients.

"The report documented 77 television stations airing VNRs or related materials; not once did stations disclose the client behind the segment. The report led the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to launch an investigation of the 77 stations named, in August 2006.

"Last week, the Radio-Television News Directors Association (RTNDA), through the law and lobby firm Wiley Rein & Fielding, urged the FCC to drop its investigation. RTNDA alleged that the investigation has had "a chilling effect" on TV newsrooms. RTNDA also issued a critique of CMD's report that misrepresented and distorted the substance of the report. CMD's full, point-by-point rebuttal of the RTNDA critique is available online at: .

"It's unfortunate that an organization representing news directors is attacking accurate, independent reporting," stated CMD senior researcher Diane Farsetta, who co-authored the "Fake TV News" report. "We do not find RTNDA's claims to have any merit. Furthermore, it should be noted that the issue is VNR disclosure. TV stations willing to disclose where the video in their newscast comes from should feel no chill at all. As the FCC stated in its April 2005 Public Notice on VNRs, news audiences have the right to know 'who seeks to influence them.'"

"The RTNDA's latest appeal is a spurious attempt to smother an investigation and undermine the public interest," said Timothy Karr, campaign director for the media reform group Free Press. "The CMD report reveals beyond any doubt that at least 77 stations have violated the letter and the spirit of their broadcast licenses. It's now incumbent upon the FCC to fully investigate all stations that air undisclosed fake news." In conjunction with the release of CMD's report, Free Press launched an activist campaign against fake news. More than 30,000 Americans have written the FCC to support an investigation and penalties for TV stations that broadcast VNRs without FCC-mandated disclosures.

"It was embarrassingly easy to debunk each and every one of RTNDA's critiques," added CMD research consultant Daniel Price, who co-authored the "Fake TV News" report. "No matter how they spin it, every VNR broadcast that we documented is a blatant violation of not only FCC regulations but also RTNDA's own code of ethics, which urges stations to 'clearly disclose the origin of information and label all material provided by corporate or other non-editorial sources.'"

Contact: Diane Farsetta or Daniel Price, CMD, (608) 260-9713
Timothy Karr, Free Press, (201) 533-8838

The Center for Media and Democracy ( ) is a nonprofit, public interest organization that strengthens participatory democracy by investigating and exposing public relations spin and propaganda, and by promoting media literacy and citizen journalism.

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