Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Still Not the News

Seven months after releasing a scathing study of TV "news" programs' reliance on misleading Video News Releases (VNRs), the invaluable Center for Media and Democracy is back with a follow-up study which reveals, among other things, that some of the same stations singled out back in April for running corporate propaganda without fact-checking or proper attribution are still running misleading VNRs.

Message: they don't care. And why should they? These are businesses, after all, and "news" to them is really just filler around advertisements. News costs money; advertisements make money. Small wonder that such outfits don't much care if the one morphs into the other. This is true of local broadcast stations, and it's true of big national cable networks. You can pretend that Tucker Carlson and Wolf Blitzer and Kyra Phillips and Tim Russert and Glenn Beck and Bill O'Reilly and the like are "journalists" or even "commentators" if you want, but let's face it: their primary job is to fill space around advertisements.

Anyone wondering why television news does such a piss-poor job of keeping us informed about the things that we actually need to know to function as free, informed, autonomous citizens of a democracy would be well advised to keep this harsh fact of life in mind.

Update: freepress.net has an action page for those interested in telling the FCC that they ought to take this violation of the public interest at least as seriously as they took a split-second glimpse of one of Janet Jackson's breasts. For those who think regulation of this kind of lying isn't the FCC's business, read this.

"It's the last reel of this vintage motion picture, 'High School Madness...'"
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