By all means, lets support the campaign against "Fake News" on TV. That's a reference to the undisclosed use by local news outlets of PR company produced ads dressed up to look like news. A study by the Center for Media and Democracy found that 35 commercially driven news packages had been inserted in or run adjacent to 77 newscasts without attribution.
The practice involves Video News Releases and it is wrong and it should be stopped! It's a form of disguised commercials posing as news stories. It 's deceptive, and probably violates FCC regulations.
But let's not stop there.
Fraudulent advertising is all over TV. All those ads urging us to "tell your" doctor to prescribe colorfully packaged pills, all those weight loss claims and phony credit card and debt consolidation spots. And then there is paid product placement in dramatic programming, and probably soon in the news.
In fact, how many advertisements could survive real truth tests? Most political ads fail and I would guess that many commercial ads do as well.
We are even getting ads from people who are DEAD! Eonline.com carried a story on a "very important message" from Chris Farley -- from beyond the grave:
"Eight years after his fatal overdose, the late Saturday Night Live funnyman has been resurrected for a series of billboard advertisements plugging a new treatment for drug and alcohol abuse from Hythiam Inc."
Even worse, there are three times as many opinionizers on the air than journalists. PR firms pitch them guests and issues. Together, they insidiously dominate the public discourse often shaping the news agenda. All too often this accepted practice is not considered "fake news."
Evan Derkacz of Alternet reported on this latest media scandal this way:
"They've been faking it.
"Clear Channel, News Corp./Fox Television, Viacom/CBS Corp, Tribune Co. and Sinclair Broadcast Group, among others, have all aired Video News Releases (VNR), corporate sponsored ads masquerading as news, according a report from the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) and Free Press.
"I feel so cheated, so used, so so so... betrayed. According to Tim Karr nearly half of the American public is reached by the stations implicated in the report and:
'Despite repeated claims from broadcasters that they do not air VNRs as news, the new report reveals just the tip of the iceberg. Instances of fake TV news documented by CMD likely represent less than 1 percent of VNRs distributed to local newsrooms since June 2005. Fraudulent news reports have likely been aired on hundreds of more local newscasts in the past year.'"
Ok, wait a minute, this is bad, but is it the worst problem we have to contend with on TV news? No way. It's not the occasional concealed ads posing as news that we should worry about, but the deceptive information and usual drivel we see day after day and night after night that calls itself news.
GETTING AT THE MORE SERIOUS PROBLEM