Via CBS News: The FCC has sent letters to 77 television stations including four in North Carolina seeking details about broadcasts of what the Center for Media and Democracy calls “fake news” segments without proper attribution or explanation.
A study by the center has led to an FCC investigation of how the public relations videos were presented to viewers. The NC stations that got the letter and are featured in the fake news report are WCCB (Charlotte), WCTI (New Bern), WGHP (Greensboro) and the wonderful Sinclair station WLFL (Raleigh).
Here’s an example: In the case of a consumer report on Charlotte’s WCCB-18 (Fox) the center says:
Case in point: on December 14, 2005, WCCB-18 (Charlotte, NC) aired a live satellite interview with Edelman on the best stocking stuffers to buy this holiday season. From her remote studio, Julie gave a visual demonstration of her personal picks, including the Build-a-Bear Workshop, the Brother electronic labeling device, and the Tide-to-Go portable stain remover (“A must-have!” exclaimed Edelman).
But Edelman’s picks were anything but personal. Her appearance was jointly funded by Build-A-Bear, Brother, Tide-to-Go and two other companies who just happened to make the very products she was heartily recommending.
The report says New Bern’s ABC station, WCTI, had the most fake news in the state airing three–one each for Panasonic, Sallie Mae and Dalmier-Chrysler. Rather scathing this bit:
Rather than admit to viewers that they were running an externally-produced imitation news story funded by Sallie Mae, the station took steps to adopt the VNR as their own journalistic product. In preparing the feature, WCTI-12 editors swapped the narrative audio track of the MultiVu publicist, Danielle Addair, with that of their own reporter, Cle Pickett, and inserted station-branded text overlays over the MultiVu video.
So on December 21, WCTI-12 morning news anchor Colleen Maloney introduced the segment as an “Investigation Education” story, and left the rest to Pickett. Tens of thousands of viewers were deceived into thinking they were watching a legitimate news investigation, when all they got was borrowed spin from a private lender.