Tuesday, October 17, 2006
SOURCE MATERIAL: Letter to FCC from opponents of "fake news"
Here is the text of a news released today from opponents of so-called "fake news" -- the practice of U.S. TV stations broadcasting video material provided by companies or PR firms without disclosing the source to viewers. This release was supplied to the Media Giraffe Project by John Staubner of the Center for Media & Democracy in Madison, Wis.
> Oct. 17, 2006
> FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
> Diane Farsetta, CMD, (608) 260-9713
> Craig Aaron, Free Press, (202) 265-1490 x 25
> Broadcasters of Fake News Make False Claims about VNR study
> Free Press and Center for Media and Democracy respond to smears from RTNDA
> and NABC; groups urge FCC to continue investigation into corporate propaganda
> WASHINGTON - In a letter yesterday to the Federal Communications Commission,
> Free Press and the Center for Media and Democracy refuted spurious claims
> made by the Radio Television News Directors Association (RTNDA) and the
> National Association of Broadcast Communicators (NABC), a new consortium of
> broadcast PR firms, about the FCC's ongoing investigation into
> corporate-funded "fake news" on local TV stations.
> The full rebuttal can be found at <http://www.prwatch.org/node/5282>
> The original report - "Fake News: Widespread and Undisclosed" - is available
> at <http://www.prwatch.org/fakenews/intro>
> A copy of the letter follows:
> October 16, 2006
> Dear Mr. Chairman and Commissioners:
> The purpose of this letter is to address allegations made in an October 5,
> 2006, filing with the Federal Communications Commission by Wiley Rein &
> Fielding, on behalf of the Radio-Television News Directors Association
> The RTNDA filing misrepresents and distorts the substance of the Center for
> Media and Democracys April 2006 report on video news releases (VNRs), Fake
> TV News: Widespread and Undisclosed. The enclosed document is a
> point-by-point rebuttal of the RTNDA filing (specifically, of the filings
> Attachment A).
> The importance of issuing a rebuttal is demonstrated by the October 16, 2006,
> filing with Chairman Martin by Keller and Heckman, on behalf of the VNR firm
> consortium named the National Association of Broadcast Communicators (NABC).
> The NABC filing wrongly states that the RTNDA has demonstrated that much of
> [CMDs report] is inaccurate, misleading and unreliable.
> As you know, Free Press and the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) have
> long been concerned about the widespread and undisclosed use of the public
> airwaves to broadcast VNRs. The Fake TV News report documented 98
> separate instances where TV stations aired VNRs or related satellite media
> tours. Not once did a TV station disclose to its news audience the name of
> the corporate client behind the sponsored segment.
> Such practices appear to be clear violations of the Commissions sponsorship
> identification rules. In its April 2005 Public Notice, the Commission
> asserted, Listeners and viewers are entitled to know who seeks to persuade
> them. The Notice goes on to state that whenever broadcast stations and
> cable operators air VNRs, licensees and operators generally must clearly
> disclose to members of their audiences the nature, source and sponsorship of
> the material that they are viewing. These passages contradict the NABC
> assertion that the Commissions actual rules regarding disclosure are
> based on the specific content of any given VNR.
> We applaud the Commissions August 2006 decision to launch an investigation
> of the 77 TV stations found airing undisclosed VNRs and satellite media
> tours. As television remains the most popular news source in the United
> States, the routine infiltration of disguised public relations and marketing
> materials into newscasts must be fully investigated. In the months since the
> release of the Fake TV News report, more than 30,000 Americans have
> written the Commission, urging the agency to protect the public airwaves from
> such abuse by enforcing and strengthening VNR disclosure requirements.
> The Commissions ongoing investigation of undisclosed VNRs is not an
> intrusion upon First Amendment principles, as the RTNDA filing contends.
> Ensuring disclosure of broadcast materials provided by third parties is
> clearly within the Commissions mandate. It should be noted that disclosure
> does not keep public relations firms from producing VNRs or TV stations from
> broadcasting them. What disclosure does is honor news audiences right to
> know who seeks to influence them.
> The RTNDA needs to understand that their members use of the public airwaves
> is a privilege, not a right. When TV stations turn their backs on the public
> interest to air fake news provided by public relations firms, they defy
> the spirit and letter of their broadcast licenses.
> Free Press and CMD have confidence that the Commission will enforce its
> sponsorship identification rules in a way that honors both newsrooms
> editorial independence and viewers right to know. To ensure that the
> Commission has the most accurate information available, our two organizations
> submit the following clarification and rebuttal of the RTNDA filing.
> Timothy Karr
> Campaign Director
> Free Press
> Diane Farsetta
> Senior Researcher
> Center for Media and Democracy
> The Center for Media and Democracy (www.prwatch.org) 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.
> Free Press (www.freepress.net) is a national, nonpartisan organization
> working to reform the media and involve the public in media policymaking.
> Through education, organizing and advocacy, we promote diverse and
> independent media ownership, strong public media, and universal, affordable
> access to communications.
John Stauber, Executive Director, Center for Media and Democracy
520 University Avenue #227, Madison, WI 53703
Phone (608)260-9713 Fax-260-9714 http://www.prwatch.org