RTNDA president tells Senate technology partly to blame for VNR flap

RTNDA President Barbara Cochran told the Senate Commerce Committee May 12 that “little outside material” is used to produce stories and that the government should not impose rules that determine the makeup or presentation of broadcast news.

Testifying before the committee, Cochran addressed recent reports that “leave the mistaken impression” that video news releases are used broadly in television newscasts.

Within recent months, activists, politicians and media watchdogs have raised concern over the use by stations of VNRs without informing viewers of their source.

Entire video news releases are seldom used “and even more rarely is the source not identified,” she said. Cochran acknowledged that some unidentified VNRs have made it to air. However, these mistakes can be partly attributed to “technological changes that have made the distribution of audio and video materials more complicated,” she said. These changes have made it difficult for news personnel to ascertain where some material originates.

News organizations are changing how material is distributed and labeled to prevent a recurrence of problems, and newsrooms are taking steps to adhere to RTNDA guidelines regarding the use of VNRs, she said.

She concluded by urging lawmakers “not to respond to the mistakes of a few” with rules that could impact news decisions.

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