FCC fines Comcast for fake "news"

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September 24, 2007
For Immediate Release
Contact:
Diane Farsetta, CMD, (608) 260-9713
Craig Aaron, (202) 265-1490, x 25
FCC Fines Comcast for Fake News
Groups call on agency to take action against hundreds of other stations airing video news releases without disclosure
WASHINGTON — Today, in response to a complaint filed in 2006 by Free Press and the Center for Media and Democracy, the Federal Communications Commission announced its intention to fine Comcast for airing a video news release (VNR) for “Nelson’s Rescue Sleep” on its CN8 news channel without identifying the sponsor.
“We’re pleased to see the FCC is finally waking up to the issue of fake news,” said Craig Aaron, communications director of Free Press. “But the fine levied against Comcast is just the tip of the tip of the iceberg. Video news releases dressed up as real news were uncovered at more than 100 stations. We hope the FCC will soon fine those stations and issue clear guidelines to end the epidemic of fake news once and for all.”
Comcast’s CN8 news channel — which airs in 20 TV markets, including New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. — was caught by the Center for Media and Democracy airing at least four more VNRs without disclosure. However, today’s announcement by the FCC contains no mention of those instances — or the two broadcast stations caught airing the exact same VNR without disclosure.
“The Commission’s action against CN8 is precedent setting. It rejects the PR industry’s argument that no disclosure is needed if the television station has not received direct payment to air a VNR,” said Diane Farsetta of the Center for Media and Democracy, who conducted the group’s extensive investigation on fake news. “The Nelson’s Rescue Sleep VNR was remarkable for its shameless product promotion. But the FCC must require disclosure in all cases when a VNR is used, whether it’s for a new product or a government policy. Viewers have a right to know who’s trying to persuade them.”
Read the FCC complaint filed by Free Press and the Center for Media and Democracy: http://www.freepress.net/docs/final_vnr_letter_nov06.pdf
See the Nelson’s Rescue Sleep VNR: http://www.prwatch.org/fakenews2/vnr54
Read the report Still Not the News: http://www.prwatch.org/fakenews2/execsummary
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The Center for Media and Democracy (www.prwatch.org) is a nonprofit, public interest organization that strengthens participatory democracy by investigating and exposing public relations spin and propaganda, and by promoting media literacy and citizen journalism.
Free Press is a national, nonpartisan organization working to reform the media. Through education, organizing and advocacy, we promote diverse and independent media ownership, strong public media, and universal access to communications. Learn more at www.freepress.net
A copy of this release is available at http://www.freepress.net/press/release.php?id=275

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