Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Video news release fined by FCC

The Associated Press reports this week that a $4000 fine has been issued by the Federal Communications Commission for cable television network Comcast, which aired parts of the video news release about unnatural sleep aid, without disclosing that the tape was paid for by the maker of the product. The Center for Media and Democracy brought the complaint, and said it marks the first time that a company has been fined for airing a video news release. As the story notes:

A video news release is a sponsored public relations video that mimics actual news reports. Such programs are common in broadcasting and are usually offered to news shows for free.

The Center has produced two reports, Fake TV News and Still Not the News to document a sampling of video news release usage and local television stations around the country. Read the FCC notice of liability here. It's important to note that the FCC rules say that cable broadcasts must identify the sponsor when the cable operator accepts “money, service or other valuable consideration" in return for airing material. Because VNRs are provided free, a coalition of public relations VNR producers argued they should be exempt from the rule. The FCC judgment disagrees, noting that the cable operator has a duty to identify the sponsor "when there is too much focus on a product or brand name in the programming."

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