Commercial TV news lobby group rejects criticism over "fake news" propaganda

by Jonathan Lawson

The corporate media lobby representing TV news directors is in a tizzy about a media activist study which revealed widespread deception in local news programs. Last spring, PR Watch released the explosive study Fake News, documenting dozens of instances in which local TV news programs passed off corporate-funded "video news releases" (VNRs) as objective news stories. These VNRs are produced by PR firms at the behest of pharmaceutical firms, software manufacturers and food industries in order to push their own corporate agendas. Copies of the slick releases are provided to TV stations, who may air them as a cheap alternative to doing actual journalism. The FCC responded to the report by launching an unprecedented investigation into the deceptive practice...

Now, industry association the Radio-Television News Directors Association (RTNDA) has waded into the controversy--not by joining PR Watch in denouncing fake news, but by demanding that the FCC halt their investigation. Incredibly, the RTNDA claims that the FCC probe is having a chilling effect on independent newsrooms. While the group doesn't go so far as to deny that some stations are deceiving viewers by passing off corporate propaganda as public-interest journalist, they propose that the solution is voluntary self-policing, not government regulation. Given the seriousness of the problem--and the economic pressures on news departments in consolidated media companies--that's hard to imagine.

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The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey