The Daily Sandwich

"We have to learn the lesson that intellectual honesty is fundamental for everything we cherish." -Sir Karl Popper

Location: Boston, Massachusetts, United States


Tuesday, August 15, 2006

FCC investigates airing of fake news stories

It's been a while-- years in at least one case-- since the story broke about TV news shows broadcasting as genuine news stories that were produced by the White House (e.g., the infamous "No Child Left Behind earns an A+" story) and corporations. The FCC is pretty slow on the draw here, but at least they're acting on it.

The FCC wants to know if dozens of broadcasters aired video releases as legitimate news stories without telling viewers their true sponsors were corporations.

FCC commissioner Jonathan Adelstein said Monday that the agency issued 42 formal letters of inquiry to holders of 77 broadcast licenses in its investigation of the practice. (. . .)

If the commission determines after investigation that a licensee has violated sponsorship identification rules, the FCC may impose monetary fines of up to $32,500 per violation, and initiate license revocation proceedings against licensees. Section 507 of the Communications Act establishes civil and criminal penalties for violation of disclosure requirements, with the possibility of a fine of up to $10,000 and as much as a year of imprisonment.

I have to say, that opening sentence gets it wrong. We already know that stations did just that. The question is their motive. The stories were free, which would mean they were misleading the public to save some cash. Or it could have been a combination of ignorance and laziness. The question to be resolved is whether it was out of greed and malice or just incompetence.