For over a decade private industry has been producing fake news stories about their own products or services and giving them to news agencies to run as real news. Called “Video News Releases“, or VNR’s for short, these spots are often run during local news broadcasts without any indication that they were produced not by the news broadcaster but rather by a commercial entity. This trend has grown worse as media consolidation has put more pressure on news departments to turn profits and news staffs are downsized. Free corporate created and supplied news often becomes a convenient source of low-cost “filler” material. Of course, with local stations running such programming as WZZM’s “Try it before you Buy it” or WOOD 8’s “Ask the Expert” section, it’s hard to tell the original programming that just happens to be focused on pitching various consumer products from the corporate created VNR’s.
The use of VNR’s has not escaped the notice of the government. While the Clinton administration did create some VNR’s of their own, the Bush administration has taken it to another level. Recent investigations have shown that as many as twenty various government agencies have released VNR’s to promote various political agendas. Beyond just promoting VNR’s, the Bush administration has also resorted to paying political commentators to promote various Bush proposals, such as “no child left behind“. In order to combat this misuse of taxpayers money for the purpose of creating government propaganda, The Center for Media and Democracy and Free Press have filed a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission urging an investigation of the extensive airing of VNR’s by TV broadcasters. In just one week nearly 40,000 citizens have signed their petition calling on the FCC, Congress and local broadcasters to stop fake news. While Media Mouse recognizes that signature petitions are often of limited value in effecting change, they have proved somewhat effective over the last two years in matters pertaining to the FCC and media consolidation. For more information on this topic, Free Press has a new special report on news fraud. To sign the online petition, click here.