Fake News

05/25/2011 11:55 am ET

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart at least admits to presenting fake news. But in Eric Boehlert's HuffPost blog, "I Think Terry Moran Owes Me an Apology," he mentions "phony video newsreels." Dr. Peter Rost, in a piece titled "Don't Trust Your Television News," reports:

"Over a ten month period the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) documented television newsrooms' use of 36 video news releases (VNRs) to find out h ow many of these corporate PR videos were used without telling viewers.

"VNRs are pre-packaged 'news' segments and additional footage created by PR firms. These VNRs are designed to be integrated into newscasts, and are provided free of charge to TV stations with the corporation hoping the TV station will air them.

"TV stations, strapped for cash and resources, often use this shortcut. Nothing in the VNR identifies who paid for the news release so viewers cannot know if the news segment they're watching was bought and paid for by a corporatiion.

"CMD identified 77 television stations, from those in the largest to the smallest markets that aired these VNRs in 98 separate instances, without disclosure to viewers. Collectively, these 77 stations reach more than half of the U.S. population. The VNRs wer produced by three broadcast PR firms for 49 different clients, including Pfizer, General Motors and Intel.

"CMD found that in each case these VNRs were used, the television stations actively disguised the sponsored content to make it appear to be their own reportng. In almost all cases, stations failed to balance the clients' messages with independently gathered footage or basic journalistic research. More than one-third of the time, stations aired the pre-packaged VNR in its entirety."