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Another Fake News Scandal?

Federal authorities are investigating dozens of American television stations for broadcasting items produced by the Bush administration and major corporations, and passing them off as normal news.

Some of the fake news segments talked up success in the war in Iraq, or promoted the companies’ products.

Investigators from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) are seeking information about stations across the country after a report produced by a campaign group detailed the extraordinary extent of the use of such items.

The report, by the non-profit group Centre for Media and Democracy, found that over a 10-month period at least 77 television stations were making use of the faux news broadcasts, known as Video News Releases (VNRs). Not one told viewers who had produced the items.

“We know we only had partial access to these VNRs and yet we found 77 stations using them,” said Diana Farsetta, one of the group’s researchers…

(This isn’t the first time, is it? I’m on the run today, but I want to follow up on this tonight…)

Published in researchmaterial


  1. mitch mitch

    nope: not the first time…the american mainstream press has been in bed with the gov since well before kennedy…only difference is, today, the american mainstream press has become part of the gov’s propaganda machine whereas, before, it simply didn’t report on the infidelities and indiscretions of public officials

    i’m 43 and honestly i can’t recall a time when the american mainstream press wasn’t in bed with gov

  2. Napalm Dog Napalm Dog

    The first time involved infomercials sent to television stations in the guise of news shows. There’s good info on this link to get the basic idea.

    This is worse, essentially in the same vein as the telcos giving our phone records records to the government. If the networks know they were broadcasting propoganda, this is fascism at it’s finest, isn’t it?

  3. Sarah So Sarah So

    Definitely not the first time. As is true with many places, you can’t get real news about where you live unless you read it from a foreign source.

  4. But this is just the biggest symptom of the issue. Print news and by extension web-based news is fond of just running press releases as articles when it gets them.

    When you see yourself as solely a media outlet, you talk about filling up with “content.” And when you start using that word instead of a word that accurately describes what you’re supposed to be doing, you tend to make too many compromises.

  5. I don’t find this especially shocking.

    Consider this: most, if not all media companies in the United States are simply advertising fronts for global corporations with ONE true export…war. Every program you watch, every product advertised is simply coal-fuel for the engines of war; it’s not terribly surprising that news reports would be used to pimp for the war in Iraq. Hell, they do it without ready-made news from the white house. This just saves on production revenue.

  6. Actually, I meant EXPENSE, not REVENUE.

    Mea culpa.

  7. Damien Damien

    This is the Diskonnekt News, Sponsored by Diskonnekt.

  8. patient_0 patient_0

    I. Am. So. Shocked.
    Seriously, who’d have thought of something like that? Seriously. Damn.

    …In other news, have you seen THE GAY AGENDA at work yet?

  9. AnthonyX AnthonyX

    You folks must be kidding?

    All cards on the table then, I am one of the “media is lefty biased” wacko.

    For example: The website TimesWatch says that New York Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger apologized to graduates of SUNY New Paltz for failing to stop the Iraq war. (And here I was naively thinking that the purpose of a newspaper was to report the news, not to prevent the implementation of American foreign policy.)

    Of course we have former CNN Cheif News Executive, who after the fall of Saddam he admitted in a lovely column that he made a deal with Saddam Hussein and his regime to not report atrocities in Iraq in exchange for keeping a CNN news base in Baghdad.

    Of course we have RatherGate- where 60 minutes ran with an obvious fake document attempting to smear Bush just weeks before the election. And I could go on. Take off the tinfoil hat and open your eyes.

  10. Rob Rodriguez Rob Rodriguez

    Nope…..Sadly this not new at all. Pharmaceutical Companies have been doing it for sometime before the US Republican Party started to run similar Fake news segments. The Segments would appear to be a local Medical News Report but were actually slick advertisement for new drugs. Basically televison stations, particularly smaller affiliate stations will run the phony news with no disclamier as to its source or prodution.
    About a year ago a PBS (American Public Broadcasting Station) show called NOW ran a story about this type of phony news segments being done by drug companies. As well as by Republican Party Lobbiest inconjunction with tring to create more support for the War in Iraq. Many affilates especially Fox affiliate stations would run them in replacement it seems of actual legitamite news.

  11. Matt Matt

    Anthony, the points you make would be fascinating if they had anything to do with the content of the linked article. As it is, your fine examples of media malfeasance and the implication that everyone who disagrees with you is clad in aluminum headgear doesn’t really advance the discussion so much as obscure it. Your self-admittedly naive assertion that the media’s job is to report news is undermined by our government’s production of phony* news articles for public consumption.

    And why does everyone tack the word “Gate” onto the end of something to reference it as a scandal? Call it what it is, a fuck-up.

    *”Phony” may not be the right word; the misdirection is in the manner of presentation, not necessarily the truth of events.

  12. AnthonyX AnthonyX

    Of course, the Main stream media left wing bias is really shown on the news you do not here about.
    -The UN Oil for Food scandal, the biggest monetary scandal in history which has led to the actions in Iraq.
    -The pedophile ring in various UN “peacekeeping” posts.
    -The current pro-democracy riots in Iran and Egypt.
    -How Russia and China are stone-walling any serious discussion and action(started by US ambassador John Bolton) to help stop the genocide in Sudan . Of course no one mentions the Oil interest that both countries have.
    -And details of said Genocide, Arab Muslims killing black muslims. Hmm no Americans or Jews to blame, skip it.

  13. Les Pasnak Les Pasnak

    AnthonyX, once again, what are you talking about? How do any of your points relate to the main story?

  14. Doug Pasnak Doug Pasnak

    “All cards on the table then, I am one of the “media is lefty biased” wacko.”

    You are correct. Since the media is by nature liberal (as it should be) , we’ll forgive the blatant lies and propaganda efforts undertaken by or with the blessing of the Bush Administration and concentrate on the occasional screwups made by the media itself. We’ll ignore the fact that those organisations who do screwup get all their dirty laundry aired repeatedly, while Fox watchers still swallow the Big Lies about why the USA is in Iraq.

    It’s all about balance, afterall.

    But then I don’t watch Fox, and I don’t live in the USA.

    Concerned Citizen A: Does the Bush Administration create video segments to spread propaganda as legitimate news?”

    Fox Watcher B: “Clinton!”

  15. AnthonyX AnthonyX

    Sorry, I did not mean to ignore the responses directed at me. My posts were in response to the previous posts as opposed to the original story.

    From Mitch:
    The american mainstream press has been in bed with the gov since well before kennedy

    From the darkbackward:
    Consider this: most, if not all media companies in the United States are simply advertising fronts for global corporations with ONE true export…war.

    And of course MAtt mentioned this:
    *”Phony” may not be the right word; the misdirection is in the manner of presentation, not necessarily the truth of events.

    And that ladies and gents is where I am coming from.

  16. AnthonyX AnthonyX


    I’ve never watched Fox. But I have seen CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS, BBC and the CBC who I have been supporting through my tax dollars.

    Quick question to everyone. Who is Sandy Berger?

  17. Doug Pasnak Doug Pasnak

    But the counter really should have been, “What does “Sandy” Berger have to do with corporate and government propaganda disseminated as real news?”.

  18. Matt Matt

    Lest we verge into complete incomprehensibility, I gotta know: where ARE you coming from, Anthony? Let’s focus. What is your opinion on the creation of news reports by our government specifically for use as propaganda on the American people?

    And, not to be caught napping, Sandy Berger absconded with some documents that should have been turned over to the 9/11 commission, and has no relation to this thread whatsoever.

  19. AnthonyX –

    Normally, I make it a practice not to argue with the obviously insane – they might sic their invisible monsters and Greek gods on me.

    The problem you are having, dear sir, isn’t organic brain damage (most likely) but an addiction to NARRATIVE. You’ve been given a Grand Story by your cultural handlers, a never-wrong, received explanation for all perceived wrongs committed against Your Team.

    I beg you. Stop. Stop listening to your talk radio honchos and your TV pals. Read a book. Independently…don’t drape yourself in someone else’s opinions. We’re all wrong.

  20. Laramie Laramie

    Before anyone actually starts to say any not-nice things to one another, I would like to point out that I really enjoy a good discourse. While I know that most of us here likely lean to what label places will call the left, I would like to see how someone on the Bush side of the war line sees things. To this end, I would like to thank Ant for his posts of a different perspective… now that we know that you have the courage to be different, do you have anything relevent to this post? Document theft aside, we know people in the governement steal shit, hell, your president has been all but busted on similar grounds. Point at hand… lying and calling it news, lets bring this to bear.

  21. Les Pasnak Les Pasnak

    Laramie, I do believe that AnthonyX is Canadian and he stated before that he was reacting to the comments rather than the original post.

    I think too many people are trying to make this article apply only to the Bush administration. The issue is that there are many entities trying to spread their message by abusing the public trust in the media. Let’s not make this solely about Bush and the war in Iraq.

  22. This never really stopped. My girlfriend worked for the company that produced the first VNR to get the administration in trouble. She, thankfully, left that job and is now more stress-free and less morally-conflicted working as a full-time pet-sitter.

    The company goes on, though, and continues to output VNRs to major news feeds on a daily basis. They even have a pitching department that calls up news stations and tries to get them to run the VNRs. Most of the ones that can be considered propaganda usually aren’t picked up by any stations unless the station already has a strong political slant. The stations tend to be more interested in VNRs about the importance of safety belts and low-fat yogurt. At least two years ago they were.

  23. Frank Schmidt Frank Schmidt

    The Daily Show did a story about this a couple of YEARS ago.
    The ironic thing here is that the administration’s own FCC -part of the executive branch – is the arm of government carrying out this investigation. Why? To throw blame onto the news outlets rather than the government, which had no business manufacturing this fake news?

  24. We had a huge story here in Nashville about the local Fox network (not Fox News) using these years ago. Like some of the previous commentors, the story only had teeth on The Daily Show. That is until the other local networks local stations figured they could use it to blast the Fox News at 9 for lack of journalistic integrity.

    The saddest thing is they still use them and I have even seen some pop up on the NBC and CBS local news too.

  25. Janet Janet

    I am certain this isn’t limited to the U.S. or to full segments. I have noticed product placement in the morning news on BBC America. It was subtle, but it was there. It was a piece about the American economy and the visuals showed a sales clerk wearing an apron with a large logo from a tool manufacturer in one shot, and in another a person was buying a tool set by the same manufacturer, again with a very visible logo. Personally, I think the combination of laziness and greed that leads to making and using VNRs will be hard to combat.

  26. Napalm Dog Napalm Dog

    I guess we all answered your question, Mr. Ellis, yes?

  27. Of course one of the best examples of manufactured news recently was the ‘Iran is going to make Jews wear badges just like the Nazis did” bullshit meme that burned up the net last week. That was printed by The National Post, Canada’s print version of Fox News, and started by Amir Taheri, former editor of the Iran state newspaper under the Shah and currently member of the unofficial Neo-Con PR firm Benador Associates. Basically, the updated version of the classic ‘Iraqi soldiers tossed babies out of incubators’ psy-op that helped get the first Gulf War rolling.

    Even though The National Post has retracted the story -behind a subsciption password and buried in their website- it’s zombie still stalks the web and has taken up permanent residence in the fore-brains of the more hysterically right wing.

    And war with Iran seems a little more reasonable to a few more people.

  28. DensityDuck DensityDuck

    Apparently all that Red Bull has damaged Warren’s brain, and now he’s posting stuff that was current in TWO THOUSAND THREE.

  29. Video News Releases (VNRs) have been in use for over a decade and are one of the favourite ways for PR agencies and their clients to spread their message. It is valued PRECISELY because 9 times out of ten the stations that recieve them will at most edit out any non local station IDs and just air it with no disclaimer.

    Is it any suprise when all we hear about is media conglomeration and staff cutting of local news outfits?
    Free News that you don’t have to fuck with, just insert you station breaks and commercials, it’s the perfect top-down mass-produced and distributed parallel of any consumer product in the 1st world.

    We live in an age of mass production, mass consuption, and somehow we still think each talented and resourceful reporter out ther goes and digs up her own story, polishes it with skill, and presents it to us, the viewing audience so that we may be better informed? Not even the FCC believes that. The FCC has been aware of VNRs forever, and if they are investigating now, it’s simply to be SEEN to be doing something. And they only need that impression since someone managed to make a story out of it.

    Go to this link (it just googles “produce VNR”), and you’ll see that it is a busy little industry.

    Cheers warren,

  30. obviously, i have not had enough coffee, as I cannot f#”¤#”¤ spell. excuses, excuses.
    off to hunt PR managers for fun and profit

  31. AnthonyX AnthonyX

    I apologize if I seemd to hijack this thread yesterday.

    My opinion on the creation of news reports by governments specifically for use as propaganda, is that it is a bad thing.

    Having said that, after looking at the Centre for Media and Democracy’s website, I would like a little more info on this specific case.

  32. laramie laramie

    Anthony, you earlier mentioned that you think that media has a left bias… do you think news has a left bias, or is that just a right bias in a left bias field?

    Hell anyone for this matter… is there that much left news in the US? Sorry for being socio-centric, but if there is english speaking left news availible on the net, lemme have it.

  33. Doug Pasnak Doug Pasnak

    “now he’s posting stuff that was current in TWO THOUSAND THREE.”

    So, by all means, let’s ignore the blatant propaganda efforts of the US governments and corporations, becasue there has been a new development on a story which you don’t think is relevant.

  34. AnthonyX AnthonyX

    With regards to the National Post story on Iran. It is amazing how the truth has been morphed to fit the anti-American agenda.

    The Iranian parliament had actually debated the issue, is that not enough to cause concern?? They are considering stricter Muslim dress to seperate themselves from the infidels.

    And of course, with a regime as awful as this, It is not really a stretch that they would consider this. Oh but the extreme left went insane with glee as they had the GOTCHA moment they were looking for.

    No Yellow stripes of course but they have the following:
    Ezatollah Sahabi of the banned monthly Iran-e-Farda or
    Taghi Rahmani of the banned weekly Omid-e-Zangan or
    Morteza Kazemian of the banned daily Fath.
    They were all sentenced to a total of 27 years in prison

    Hoda Saber, ten years in prison,
    Saide Madani, six years in prison, or
    Reza Alijani, six years in prison.
    All Journalists.

    Or think of the Christians and Jews who have been persecuted.
    The open threats of destruction to a country and people.

    But the stripes story was inaccurate.

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