You probably didn’t know it, but much of the local television news you see is produced by corporations and not journalists. Stories are made to look like news, but they are actually disguised commercials trying to sell you something.
The practice is also perfectly legal, if the station buries the info about the fake reporting at the end of the newscast during the fast-moving credits. Otherwise, it could face a $10,000 fine.
This issue has been going on a long time. But don’t expect to hear about it on your local news.
A few years ago, several public interest groups complained to the Federal Communications Commission that television news operations were including commercial content in newscasts disguised as news. Now, the FCC is reacting, proposing a new regulation that would require all broadcast stations to disclose on the Internet all corporate interests behind their news content.
The FCC has determined that TV newscasts are increasingly seeded with corporate advertising masquerading as news, though the news program is portrayed as the work of independent journalists. Increasingly, paying companies are shaping news coverage at broadcast stations.
The FCC would change the rule from disclosure in the closing credits to making television stations maintain a public file managed online by the FCC. This way it will be easier to track fake news.
A recent Washington Post article documented a live interview segment in which a seemingly neutral reviewer recommended a series of products that the “reviewer” had been paid by sponsors to mention.
The newspaper also said television stations across the country have brokered “exclusive” relationships with local hospitals in which the hospitals pay the station to be featured in health stories. Other stations, the Post reported, have aired “news” programs that feature interviews with sponsors who’ve paid for the privilege.
The FCC said many television stations use “video news releases,” which is lookalike news footage produced by a sponsor or corporate interest that appears to be shot and edited by the station.
We have always said it is best not to watch or pay attention to local news at all. There has never been real “news” there to start with. But, if you watch, beware that you may be watching corporate commercials. Nothing in our culture is as it appears to be. So turn off the damn box.