Wednesday, August 16, 2006

FCC Investigating Fake News

No, they're not going after Jon Stewart.

The FCC has decided to investigate news videos planted by 'businesses or interest groups' that TV channels then offer as supposedly authentic reporting. Some may remember the Karen Ryan scandal in which an actress posing as a reporter appeared in video news reports touting Bush administration policies. This time, however, the targets of the FCC are those compiled by the Center for Media Democracy and Free Press.

The FCC has mailed letters to at least 42 stations asking station managers about agreements between the station and the creators of the video news releases.
FCC rules demand that stations disclose "the nature, source and sponsorship of the material they are viewing" in video news releases.

"The public is misled by individuals who present themselves to be independent unbiased experts or reporters, but are actually shills promoting a prepackaged corporate agenda," FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein said in a statement.

The FCC has asked stations whether any "consideration" was given to them in return for airing the material.

"You can't tell anymore the difference between what's propaganda and what's news," Adelstein said.

As an aside, I found this March, 2006 article of interest as well:

More news but less depth in US media: study

The Project for Excellence in Journalism made the observations in its annual State of the News Media report, which analyzes coverage in U.S. papers, television broadcasts and websites. The study was released Sunday.

The report notes as an example that Google News offered users a menu of 14,000 stories on one day that was analyzed - but the stories covered only 24 subjects.
The researchers also said cable television news outlets tended to tell a limited number of stories repeatedly. They found that only 14 per cent of radio airtime was filled with stories by reporters and most of those items focused on crime and accidents.

Bloggers who scan the major news agencies on a daily basis certainly won't be surprised by those stats. While smaller media outlets often rely on news services like AP and Reuters, they seldom go beyond what's been handed to them to deal with any type of actual investigative reporting. That's why we've often had to rely on independent and alternative outlets to get the full story along with scavenging for information about those issues the MSM hasn't or won't cover on a wide scale. Is it any wonder then that 50% of Americans still believe that Saddam had WMDs or that the use of propaganda has been so successful and continues to be used flagrantly by those with money and power?

“See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda."—”
- George W Bush

“You can fool some of the people all the time, and those are the ones you want to concentrate on.”
- George W. Bush

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”
- Joseph Goebbels

It takes constant vigilance to stay on top of the lies and fakery. Here are some media watchdog resources:

Media Matters
Columbia Journalism Review
Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting
Media Transparency

Yale provides a more extensive list.

The FCC's probe certainly won't bring an end to the use of propaganda, especially considering the small fines it's going to impose on those who've violated their code of ethics - but the more important aspect of this story is the knowledge it brings to the American public about how they are continually being deceived. Ironically, the dissemination of that knowledge will now depend on how the MSM covers this story.

Truth is a difficult thing to come by these days and with the Bush administration's campaign against journalists and their anonymous sources, the atmosphere created by such threats only encourages less truth in reporting.

There is the supposedly free press, the lazy press and the scared press. Which will win out in the end?

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