Fake TV News: News Release
Diane Farsetta or John Stauber, CMD, (608) 260-9713
Craig Aaron, Free Press, (202) 265-1490 x 25
New Report: Fake TV News Widespread and Undisclosed
Investigation catches 77 local TV stations presenting corporate PR as real news
Groups file complaint urging FCC to take action against deceptive broadcasters
WASHINGTON The Center for Media Democracy and Free Press today exposed an epidemic of fake news infiltrating local television broadcasts across country. At a press conference in Washington with FCC Commissioner Jonathan S. Adelstein, the groups called for a crackdown on stations that present corporate-sponsored videos as genuine news to an unsuspecting audience.
The full report -- "Fake TV News: Widespread and Undisclosed" -- is now available complete with VNR and TV station video footage at www.prwatch.org/fakenews/execsummary
"It's shocking to see how product placement moves secretly unfiltered from the boardroom to the newsroom and then straight into our living rooms
," said Diane Farsetta, a senior researcher at CMD and co-author of the report. "Local TV broadcasts -- the most popular news source in the United States -- frequently air VNRs without fact-checking, conducting their own reporting, or disclosing that the footage has been provided and sponsored by big corporations."
Investigators captured 77 television stations actively disguising sponsored content from companies including General Motors, Intel, Pfizer and Capital One
to make it look like their own reporting. More than one-third of the time, stations aired fake news stories in their entirety as their own reporting.
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.
Approximately 80 percent of the stations snared in the investigation are owned by large conglomerates
. The list of the worst offenders
includes Clear Channel, News Corp./Fox Television, Viacom/CBS, Tribune Co. and Sinclair Broadcast Group
- whose Oklahoma City affiliate was caught airing VNRs on six separate occasions.
"The evidence suggests a strong connection between media consolidation and the broadcast of deceptive, pre-packaged propaganda
," said Timothy Karr, campaign director of Free Press. "When all station owners care about is profit margins, fake news can prove irresistible. After all, VNRs are free. Reporting news that's meaningful to local communities isn't
. And without decisive government action, the fake news problem will only get worse."