Thursday, April 06, 2006


They're called VNRs -- video-news releases. They're created by PR firms seeking free publicity for their clients. They look like news reports. They're not.

The Center for Media and Democracy on Thursday identified 77 television stations across the United States that aired so-called VNRs without letting viewers know they were watching spin, not news.

To their credit, TV stations in Springfield did not air any VNRs, according to the report. But KFJX -- a Fox affiliate serving Pittsburg, Kan., and Joplin, Mo. -- aired one of the fake-news bits. So did WDAF in Kansas City and KTVI in St. Louis. All three stations are aligned with Fox.

From the report's executive summary:
TV stations not only aired entire VNRs without disclosure, but had local anchors and reporters read directly from the script prepared by the broadcast PR firm. KTVI-2 in St. Louis had their anchor introduce, and their reporter re-voice, a VNR produced for Masterfoods and 1-800 Flowers, following the script nearly verbatim ...

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.
The 77 television stations reach more than half of the country's TV audience.

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