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Broadcasters must disclose sponsors of video news releases

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    News Media Update         WASHINGTON, D.C.         Broadcasting         April 14, 2005    

Broadcasters must disclose sponsors of video news releases

  • The Federal Communications Commission told broadcasters and cable operators Wednesday that sponsors and sources of prepackaged news videos must be identified.

April 14, 2005 — Broadcast stations must disclose to audiences the sponsors of video news releases, the Federal Communications Commission said Wednesday.

The directive was sparked by thousands of citizen requests for investigation into video news releases, which the FCC defines as “prepackaged news stories, that may use actors to play reporters and include suggested scripts to introduce the stories.”

Wednesday’s directive warned broadcast stations and cable operators that not revealing the “nature, source and sponsorship of the material” could result in a $10,000 fine and/or a year in jail.

The FCC warning relied on provisions in the Communications Act that require disclosure and sponsorship identifications regarding payments in connection with broadcast programs.

FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein called on Congress to “further strengthen the responsibility of government agencies to disclose more fully that material is government-produced.”

Sens. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and John Kerry (D-Mass.) introduced an amendment that would require government videos masquerading as news to run a disclaimer for the duration of the segment, according to a Kerry press release. “This disclaimer would be continuous throughout the news story and could not be removed from the segment,” the release said.

FCC Commissioner Michael Copps said in a statement that in “this era of huge corporate media, it has gotten just about impossible to tell the difference between news and entertainment or to differentiate between legitimate information and propaganda. Knowing the source of a story can help viewers and listeners judge its substance.”

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