Fake TV news widespread and undisclosed

The Center for Media Democracy (CMD) and Free Press last week exposed what it termed “an epidemic” of fake news infiltrating local television broadcasts across the country.

At a press conference in Washington with FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein, the groups called for a crackdown on stations that present corporate-sponsored videos as genuine news to an unsuspecting audience.

CMD, which unveiled the results of a 10-month investigation, found scores of local stations slipping commercial video news releases (VNRs) into their regular news programming. The new multimedia report released last week includes footage of 36 separate VNRs and their broadcast as news by TV stations and networks nationwide, including those in the nation's biggest markets.

The full report, "Fake TV News: Widespread and Undisclosed," is now available, complete with VNR and TV station video footage, at www.prwatch.org/fakenews/execsummary.

Investigators caught 77 television stations actively disguising sponsored content from companies including General Motors, Intel, Pfizer and Capital One to make it look like their own reporting. More than one-third of the time, stations aired fake news stories in their entirety as their own reporting.

Large conglomerates own approximately 80 percent of the stations snared in the investigation. The list of the worst offenders includes Clear Channel, News Corp./Fox Television, Viacom/CBS, Tribune Co., and Sinclair Broadcast Group — whose Oklahoma City affiliate was caught airing VNRs on six separate occasions.

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