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The best fake news money can buy

The Center for Media and Democracy presents a startling indictment of TV news stations, who use video segments produced by PR firms for corporate clients and present them as their own news stories:

  • A station in New York showed — as news — a video produced for a drug company that touted their new supplement as a “major health breakthrough” even though a widely reported government study had found that it was little better than a placebo.
  • In one case, a TV station even went as far as to remove safety warnings from a video promoting a new prescription skin cream.
  • The TV stations never disclosed that they were presenting sponsored items as news.
  • In more than half the cases, the TV station disguised corporate promotional videos by having one of their reporters re-voice the audio, sometimes merely repeating the original narration word-for-word. In other cases, the station identified the narrator in the video as one of their reporters, even though that person worked for a PR firm hired by a corporation.

We are talking about TV stations during their news programs presenting supposed news stories that are actually corporate advertisements in disguise. Over 100 TV stations — both large and small, which broadcast to 53% of the US population — regularly use corporate-sponsored videos called VNRs (video news releases, a combination of video news and press release). Their conclusion is that a significant amount of TV news is really bought-and-paid-for corporate propaganda.

More information and tips on what you can do about this.

UPDATE: Perhaps not very surprisingly, a new poll says that more people trust Internet news than TV or radio. And this is not a new development — I found an unrelated poll from March that shows that pretty much the same thing.



  1. Dave K wrote:

    This is more about laziness and cheapness than anything else.

    If the opposing side made good eye-candy-like video reports, those too would probably get put on the air.

    Friday, November 21, 2008 at 5:50 pm | Permalink
  2. Bill M. wrote:

    We need to take back the public airwaves. Remember when more that 2 corporations owned all the broadcast stations? Remember when there was REAL journalism? I believe that if the fourth estate had been on the job, Bush would not have had a second term.

    Friday, November 21, 2008 at 6:12 pm | Permalink
  3. Iron Knee wrote:

    It is hard for me to believe this is about laziness and cheapness. If that were so, then TV stations would not go to all the trouble of doing voice overs with their own reporter’s voices and other tricks to disguise these ads as news.

    Also, I’m not sure what Dave K means by “opposing side” — would this be the people who like their news to be truthful?

    Friday, November 21, 2008 at 6:56 pm | Permalink
  4. Bunny wrote:

    It is the cheap way to do it. Murdock is famous for buying a newsroom, and cutting most of the jobs. No more investigative journalism. The poor sods left don’t have time to photocopy press releases AND wipe their arses.

    America does export fictional news now. Many parts of the world have US Army run TV Stations, or Pentecostal Christian run TV stations. These stations have a 0% accuracy rating. It is the new American “Freedom Truth”.

    Saturday, November 22, 2008 at 12:28 am | Permalink