"Fake news" a fake controversy
by Kevin_Foley
 Politics Progressive
December 12, 2012 08:16 AM | 2031 views | 8 8 comments | 18 18 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
Several of my far right fans have been looking for ways to discredit me. They seem annoyed by my incisive, witty, well researched and written columns and blogs unmasking conservative hypocrisy.
They think they found some dirt by dredging up the "fake news" label that was applied to my company and others in my industry back in 2006. (Actually, TV Guide ran a story about VNRs 26 years ago with the cover of the magazine screaming "Fake News" and the public collectively yawned).
Anyway, what took place six years ago is actually fairly interesting and not a little ironic for my conservative friends who may have voted for George W. Bush in 2004. For anybody who cares, here's the story:
Video news releases (VNRs) are the electronic equivalent of printed press releases that the MDJ and other print, Internet and radio media routinely use. They are supplied to television news stations at no cost and typically cover a wide range of innocuous, non-controversial subjects.
For example if a beverage company introduces a new brand, we will provide TV stations with videotape of the beverage coming off the packing line.
Sometimes we offer wedding tips from a web site specializing in brides, or we might feature an interview with a star athlete talking about his latest commercial endorsement.
TV stations are under no obligation to air VNRs, but may choose to do so if they feel the information they contain is useful to their audiences. If they do air the content, they almost always edit and attribute it.
The so-called "fake news" controversy began in 2005 after the Bush administration distributed VNRs touting its various initiatives. The Bush VNRs broke all the industry and FCC rules, presenting controversial information without any contrasting views. They were also narrated and offered as a two-minute "package" that some TV stations unwittingly aired.
Free Press and the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), a left wing, anti-corporation, anti-PR activist group, learned about one of these VNRs and complained to the Federal Communications Commission. As reported by Fox News in 2005:
"Media watchdogs decrying 'fake news' segments that are actually packages produced and distributed by the Bush administration to promote government programs are demanding the Federal Communications Commission take a stand against the practice.

"They are joined by some members of Congress and other groups who have asked the FCC to investigate whether the government and broadcasters are violating regulations by producing and airing what they say are deceptive public relations tools funded with taxpayer dollars.

"'It's essentially propaganda, it's so-called news that is promoting White House policies and is provided by the government and is not being labeled as such," said Josh Silver, a spokesman for Free Press, a watchdog group that recently helped to collect 40,000 signatures on a petition calling on the FCC, Congress and the broadcasters to "stop fake news.'"

In 2006, the CMD uped the ante, releasing a "report" condemning the use of all VNRs by TV stations. Much of what the CMD presented was either flat out wrong or deliberately distorted, but that didn't stop two FCC commissioners from siding with the CMD and speaking out before hearing the other side of the story.

I helped form and then lead an industry group, which hired a Washington attorney specializing in FCC matters. He reviewed the CMD report and agreed it was one-sided and seriously flawed from a legal standpoint. He sent a letter to the FCC chairman that included this:

"CMD, nevertheless, cites so-called VNR 'abuses' that have nothing to do with controversial or political matters and do not involve the alleged payment of money or other consideration to the broadcaster, including:

  • the use of candy flavored lip gloss;
  • Holiday gift ideas;
  • the making of a Super Bowl advertisement;
  • a shortage of qualified automobile technicians;
  • an Internet game;
  • Super Bowl party tips;
  • Holiday travel tips;
  •  Floral care tips; and, last but not least,
  •  the versatility of pancakes.
"On their face, these instances of VNR usage do not violate Commission rules nor longstanding Commission precedent -- yet CMD has publicly accused the stations at issue (and, by implication, the entire VNR industry) of serious and improper conduct detrimental to the public interest."

As happens so often in such things, the entire "fake news" fiasco died a natural death. Sorry conservative readers, but there's nothing to see here. Move along.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
John Staubers
January 08, 2013
Kevin Foley Fake news man, you are so proud of your biased, slanted "news" stories paid for by your corporate and government clients who are featured in them, why not share them with the world? I hereby challenge you to make them all public by posting them online for all to see as they are produced and distributed, as we did with the VNRs we captured. Then, since you monitor for your clients exactly where this fake news aired, you shuold also post online information about which stations aired them, when and where. This is the age of the internet Kevin, and this sort of transparency would be wonderful! All the great information in your VNRs would reach an even wider audience. Let me know if you need any technical help in doing this. However, I know that you won't take up this challenge because you would be doing just what we've done, exposing how much of TV news is really just the disguised and plagiarized airings of PR videos.

Lib in Cobb
December 16, 2012
@Marie: Your response is directly from a Google search and you are attempting to pass this off as an original thought, additionally you are aiming to make this into a controversy, where there is none. Try again. You need a hobby or get a puppy.
Marie in Marietta
December 15, 2012
Oh, Kevin. (progressive thinkers. There's one for the books!)

Reporting on spin and disinformation since 1993:The conference call was arranged by PR trade press maven Jack O'Dwyer.

It featured top PR executives in the fake news business, including Doug Simon of D S Simon Productions, Stan Zeitlin of West Glen Communications, Larry Moskowitz of Medialink Worldwide and KEF Media's KEVIN FOLEY. These are the companies that are producing and distributing the thousands of VNRs sent to TV networks and stations each year. The VNRs are fake news stories, paid for by clients ranging from the Pentagon to Monsanto, that are aired by TV news producers as if they were independent reporting and the work of real journalists, rather than PR operatives who used to be real journalists.

Lib in Cobb
December 13, 2012
@DA: The more I read your below post, the more I see a very angry conservative who has just lost the big fight for the second time in a row. In addition to losing the big fight, your party has fallen apart and nothing you do can stop it or fix it. Your natural response is to reduce the conversation to name calling. There should be no wonder why we progressive thinkers find you to be such a sad little man.
Lib in Cobb
December 12, 2012
DA: Has all that screaming at passing cars just made you more miserable; or are you that way naturally? You must be a joy around the house.
Kevin Foley
December 12, 2012
@DA - And happy holidays to you too! I'm enjoying them out here in snowy Montana at my other home.

Devlin Adams
December 12, 2012
Right, Foley. You are innocent as a lamb and a victim of a right wing conspiracy to discredit you.

You pompous windbag! Do you think anybody with an intelligence level above that of a fence post, deems you worthy of efforts to discredit?

You do that to yourself everytime you write something.

Now, run tell your mommy they are picking on you again.
Lib in Cobb
December 12, 2012
@Marie: I anxiously await your post.
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