Free Press Asks FCC to Crack Down on Fake News

Los Angeles Times Investigation Shows Deception Continues on Local Newscasts
Contact Info: 

Jenn Ettinger, 202-265-1490 x 35

WASHINGTON — Free Press has filed a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission asking the agency to investigate the growing use of undisclosed commercials in TV newscasts.

The Los Angeles Times recently identified several instances where local TV stations aired promotional segments in news programs without disclosure to the public. In one particularly disconcerting case, a local CBS affiliate aired a segment titled “CBS Healthwatch” that featured the station’s news reporters but was actually a paid advertisement sponsored by a local hospital. The Times also found numerous instances of stations interviewing a “consumer expert” about new toys without disclosing that she was a spokesperson hired to promote certain products.

Free Press has long been concerned about the use of corporate and government propaganda in the media. The group filed a series of complaints in 2006 and 2007, along with the Center for Media and Democracy, about the undisclosed use of video news releases -- promotional spots that resemble news reports -- at more than 100 broadcast and cable stations. The FCC launched an investigation in 2007 and ultimately fined one company, Comcast, for airing video news releases on its CN8 channel without identifying sponsors. Since then, no further action has been taken by the FCC against fake news or embedded advertising.

Free Press Policy Counsel Corie Wright made the following statement:

“The problem of pay-to-play news is becoming an epidemic on the public airwaves. People rely on the news to make major decisions about their lives – including where to seek medical treatment or how to vote. They deserve to know when a newscast has been influenced by commercial considerations. And, more importantly, they deserve to know when programming that looks like real news coverage is in fact a commercial. The FCC needs to investigate these covert commercials and punish those stations that have broken the rules. And it needs to enact rules that require stricter and more prominent disclosure of paid propaganda.”

Link to Free Press filing:
http://www.freepress.net/resource/free-press-filing-matter-sponsorship-identification-rules-and-embedded-advertising
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