Faux Newscast Causes Panic

Reaction recalls Welles’s “War of the Worlds”
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MOSCOW: A fake TV report in the former Soviet state of Georgia caused panic over the weekend as residents there reacted to a what they thought was a Russian invasion, The New York Times reports. The TV station broadcast the mock newscast on Saturday night in a failed attempt at political satire. The Times said the broadcast was realistic enough to hearken back to Georgia’s armed conflict with Russia in 2008.

Imedi TV, owned in part by News Corp., reported that Russia invaded the country following a terror attack in South Ossetia, a target of hostilities in 2008. The faux newscast was taped in the regular news studio using the regular anchor and broadcast at 8 p.m. “with an initial disclaimer that many viewers apparently missed,” the Times said.

The report was replete with footage of tanks on the move and fighter jets dropping bombs. One clip was said to show President Barack Obama holding a press conference condemning Russia. People queued up at gas stations and began hoarding goods, cell-phone networks crashed, people ran into the streets looking for aircraft.

The chaos was said to last only 15 minutes, but residents were outraged and political infighting began immediately. Opposition to Georgia’s President Mikheil Saakashvili was behind the newscast, which depicted his rivals as Russian collaborators.

Imedi was censured in 2008 by the Tbilisi City Court in 2008 for its coverage of political unrest in that city, according to Civil.ge. Georgia’s National Regulatory Commission of Communications will hold a special hearing today to discuss sanctions against Imedi, The Georgian Times reported.

“The commission will analyze the improvised news bulletin and discuss preventive measures to avoid similar situations in the future.
The commission has already sent a special statement regarding the scandalous Saturday news program,” the publication said. “They confirmed that the TV company violated the Code of Conduct for Broadcasters and said that it was a mistake and irresponsible approach to the Code.”

(Image of Amazing Stories Vol. 2 No. 5 from August 1928, p. 418, by Jaime Anderson)