FCC Probes Corporate VNRs


The FCC is investigating stations for for airing corporate VNR's in news programming without identifying their sources and in some cases putting the station logos on them as though they were branded local content.

The Center for Media & Democracy was taking some credit for the investigation, first reported in Bloomberg, pointing to its report last month, Fake TV News: Widespread and Undisclosed, that identified a number of the stations.

Unidentified corporate VNRs are not actually against FCC rules, unless they are on  political or controversial topics.

The Center and Free Press, its partner in the study, want the FCC to require that all VNRs "be accompanied by a continuous, frame-by-frame visual notifications and verbal announcements disclosing their sources," and broadcasters "to file monthly public reports detailing their use of government or corporate-sponsored material."

Most of the examples they identified were about child safety, shopping advice, holiday stories, food tips and toys, and cars, but there were couple of medical "breakthrough" stories provided by drug companies.

In June of last year, the Radio-Television News Directors Association argued that few stations use packaged VNRs, ones that mimic news stories with narration, "interviews" and even faux reporters, and that those that do almost always identify them.

That came in a filing to the FCC, culled from an informal survey of 100 members.

Some in Congress have been trying to change the law to require government-issued packaged VNRs to have to be identified, stemming from some unidentified Bush administration VNRs. The administration says so long as the VNR's are truthful, they are not propaganda. The Government Accountability Office saw it differently, saying they violated rules against spending government money on domestic