The great “fake news” debate moves to center stage this Friday at the Society for Professional Journalists annual conference set for D.C. Expect fireworks.
John Stauber, a thorn in the side of the broadcast PR news sector, will square off against Kathleen Kirby, counsel at the Radio Television News Directors Assn.
Their panel is called “Paid and Played: The Ethics of Using Video News Releases.” Among questions: “Is there a legitimate reason for VNRs” and “Should the FCC Regulate Them.” Video pros assumed both those queries were answered years ago. “Of course,” to question No. 1. “Rarely, if ever” for question No. 2.
Stauber heads the Center for Media and Democracy organization in Madison, Wis. With the Free Press, CMD is claiming a huge victory as the Federal Communications Commission has just proposed fines for airing unidentified VNRS.
Last week, the FCC proposed a $4K fine against Comcast for a sleep-aid VNR for “Nelson’s Rescue Sleep.” (link, sub req'd)
The hammer came down Oct. 1 on VNRs for Wheaties Fit to Win Challenge, Bisquick’s 75th anniversary, Allstate Insurance and Trend Microsoftware. (PDF of FCC docs)
The broadcast PR biz argues that it is up to the stations to identify VNRs, and that such idents are required only for controversial topics.
The FCC’s proposed fines on Bisquick and Wheaties indicate a more activist regulatory policy.
Things will only get much tougher if a Democrat wins the White House and the party increases control of Congress.
Under that political scenario, stations will think twice before airing any VNR, whether for Bisquick or the latest cancer treatment.