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Thursday, May 04, 2006

Television Stations Respond... and it's Worse Than You Think

One news director says, "I have been instructed by corporate not to talk to you."
 
Hours after the Center for Media and Democracy released our study on television stations' widespread and undisclosed use of corporate video news releases (VNRs), a major organization of broadcast news executives issued its response.
 
"The Radio-Television News Directors Association strongly urges station management to review and strengthen their policies requiring complete disclosure of any outside material used in news programming," read the statement. RTNDA went on to caution that decisions involving "when and how to identify sources ... must remain far removed from government involvement or supervision."
 
Unfortunately, RTNDA's statement conflates "sources" with broadcast material funded by and produced for outside parties. It also conveniently ignores that the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, under its authority to regulate broadcasters' use of the public airwaves, already has disclosure requirements (PDF) on the books. But RTNDA's stance does point to an important, underlying issue: how to ensure both news audiences' right to know "who seeks to influence them," and the editorial freedom of newsrooms.
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