Fake TV News: Widespread and Undisclosed

Over a ten-month period, the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) documented television newsrooms’ use of 36 video news releases (VNRs)–a small sample of the thousands produced each year. CMD identified 77 television stations, from those in the largest to the smallest markets, that aired these VNRs or related satellite media tours (SMTs) in 98 separate instances, without disclosure to viewers. Collectively, these 77 stations reach more than half of the U.S. population. The VNRs and SMTs whose broadcast CMD documented were produced by three broadcast PR firms for 49 different clients, including General Motors, Intel, Pfizer and Capital One. In each case, these 77 television stations actively disguised the sponsored content to make it appear to be their own reporting. In almost all cases, stations failed to balance the clients’ messages with independently-gathered footage or basic journalistic research. More than one-third of the time, stations aired the pre-packaged VNR in its entirety. —Farsetta and PriceFake TV News: Widespread and Undisclosed (Center for Media and Democracy)

TV news is expensive to produce. As stations compete with each other for market share, they are pressured to produce slick stories that will hold viewer interest. And publicists are happy to provide professional-looking “reports” that highlight their clients.

Has your local TV station aired a marketer’s PR videotape and presented it as if it were an original news report?