FCC Probes TV Stations on Video News Releases

Aug 14, 2006  •  Post A Comment

The Federal Communications Commission said Monday it has asked 42 TV stations to say whether they properly identified video news releases that they aired.

Two consumer groups-the Center for Media Democracy and Free Press-in April filed a complaint with the FCC accusing 77 stations of running video news releases without properly identifying them as being created by third parties. Some groups have said video news releases that aren’t tagged as such can deceive viewers into believing they are neutral news reports.

“[The stations] pawned it off as their own reporting,” said John Stauber, executive director of the Madison, Wis.-based Center for Media Democracy, who called the results of his group’s 10-month look at TV stations use of video news releases “extremely shocking.”

The groups said the clips were used by big stations such as KABC-TV in Los Angeles and WCBS-TV in New York and medium and small stations including KOKH-TV in Oklahoma City.

FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein, who has expressed concern about video news releases, said he was pleased with the agency’s action.

“We need a full and thorough investigation to learn all of the facts surrounding the undisclosed broadcast of what appears to be commercial material, and prosecute any violations to the full extent of the law,” he said.

The Center for Media Democracy did the research that led to the complaint and reported that TV stations actively disguised sponsored content from companies including General Motors, Intel, and Capital One to make the video news reports seem like their own reporting.