A story in this morning’s Chron quotes Democratic FCC commissioner Jonathan Adelstein (pictured) as saying he wants an investigation into stations that have been using corporate video news releases (VNRs) without telling viewers. However, the Radio-Television News Directors Association says such an investigation has already begun by the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau with 77 stations receiving letters in October about their use of VNRs, including KPIX CBS5 and KGO-TV ABC 7.

The news peg for the Chron story was the release Tuesday of a report by the Center for Media and Democracy entitled “Fake TV News: Widespread and Undisclosed.”

The group claims:

    • KGO-TV used tape from an Allstate VNR in a story about rental cars without identifying the source of the tape. News Director Kevin Keeshan told the Chron that the use of the tape was a violation of station policy and the segment producer was disciplined. Keeshan said Channel 7 has now changed its policy on VNR usage, requiring the approval of an executive producer before airing properly identified material from a VNR.

    • KPIX used a VNR from Pfizer in a report about the first inhalable insulin treatment approved by the FDA without attributing the source of the tape. News director Dan Rosenheim told the Chron that “this was a legitimate news story,” but that the station failed to attribute the material used to a VNR, which “was a departure from our policy.”

The Chronicle’s story fails to mention that the Radio-Television News Directors Association reviewed each of the group’s allegations and found most of them to be unsupported by a review of the video of the newscasts in question. RTNDA called the study biased and inaccurate.

The RTNDA says, “The investigation has had a chilling effect on the dissemination of newsworthy information to the public” and the association strongly opposes government intervention in the newsroom.

The Center for Media and Democracy is seeking a number of new regulations regarding VNRs including continuous “frame-by-frame” identification of all VNR material (possibly with the words “Footage provided by X”) as well as a verbal introduction identifying the VNR’s source. The Center also wants the FCC to require broadcasters to list all use of VNRs in the station’s public file.

SF Press Club News

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