The FCC’s two Democrat commissioners joined a news conference last week to question whether over-the-air TV stations have gone too far in airing video news releases (VNRs) as real news. “Every citizen has a right to know where his or her news is coming from, especially in this current news environment where news and entertainment are mixes,” Commissioner Michael J. Copps said.
Copps, a leader in the national campaign to tighten media ownership rules, noted that 80 percent of the stations named as broadcasters of VNRs in a new Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) report are owned by conglomerates or large media companies. He said he expected the report to be closely examined to view the impact of changes in media ownership.
Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein called for quick FCC action and the insurance of citations on the fake news issue. According to Adelstein, many of the broadcasters are ignoring both the FCC and their own ethical guidelines in running VNRs without properly disclosing where the segment came from. He said it was not a First Amendment issue of the FCC trying to control the editorial content of broadcasters.
“Newsrooms are not allowed under the law to run commercials disguised as news without an honest and adequate disclosure," Adelstein said. "Clearly, the embarrassment of informing viewers they are merely transmitting corporate propaganda in lieu of real news is leading many to actually eliminate disclosure supplied by the VNR producer. The issue is not free speech — it is identifying who is actually speaking.”