Published on Center for Media and Democracy (http://www.prwatch.org) Fake TV News: Widespread and Undisclosed By Diane Farsetta Created 03/16/2006 - 14:30 Diane Farsetta and Daniel Price, Center for Media and Democracy April 6, 2006 This report includes: Video footage  of the 36 video news releases documented in this report, plus footage showing how actual TV newscasts incorporated them and/or a related satellite media tours. A map  showing the locations of the 77 television stations throughout the United States that aired this fake news. A spreadsheet  listing the 77 television stations that aired this fake news, by state. In Brief Over a ten-month period, the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) documented television newsrooms' use of 36 video news releases  (VNRs)ÃÂ¢â¬âa small sample of the thousands produced each year. CMD identified 77 television stations, from those in the largest to the smallest markets, that aired these VNRs or related satellite media tours  (SMTs) in 98 separate instances, without disclosure to viewers. Collectively, these 77 stations reach more than half of the U.S. population. The VNRs and SMTs whose broadcast CMD documented were produced by three broadcast PR firms for 49 different clients, including General Motors, Intel, Pfizer and Capital One. In each case, these 77 television stations actively disguised the sponsored content to make it appear to be their own reporting. In almost all cases, stations failed to balance the clients' messages with independently-gathered footage or basic journalistic research. More than one-third of the time, stations aired the pre-packaged VNR in its entirety. Report highlights include: KOKH-25  airs a VNR  from Intel  KOKH-25  in Oklahoma City, OK, a FOX  station owned by Sinclair , aired six of the VNRs tracked by CMD, making it this report's top repeat offender. Consistently, KOKH-25 failed to provide any disclosure to news audiences. The station also aired five of the six VNRs in their entirety, and kept the publicist's original narration each time. In three instances, TV stations not only aired entire VNRs without disclosure, but had local anchors and reporters read directly from the script prepared by the broadcast PR firm. KTVI-2  in St. Louis, MO, had their anchor introduce, and their reporter re-voice, a VNR  produced for Masterfoods and 1-800 Flowers, following the script nearly verbatim. WBFS-33  in Miami, FL, did the same with a VNR  produced for the "professional services firm" Towers Perrin. And Ohio News Network  did likewise with a VNR  produced for Siemens. WSJV-28  in South Bend, IN, introduced a VNR  produced for General Motors as being from "FOX's Andrew Schmertz," implying that Schmertz was a reporter for the local station or the FOX network. In reality, he is a publicist  at the largest U.S. broadcast PR firm, Medialink Worldwide . Another Medialink publicist , Kate Brookes, was presented as an on-air reporter by four TV stations airing a VNR  produced for Siemens. Two stations whose previous use of government VNRs was documented by the New York Times, WCIA-3  in Champaign, IL, and WHBQ-13  in Memphis, TN, also aired  VNRs  tracked by CMD. The March 2005 Times article reported that WHBQ's vice president for news "could not explain how his station came to broadcast" a State Department VNR, while WCIA's news director said that Agriculture Department VNRs "meet our journalistic standards." Summary Although the number of media formats and outlets has exploded in recent years, television remains the dominant news source in the United States. More than three-quarters of U.S. adults rely on local TV news, and more than 70 percent turn to network TV or cable news on a daily or near-daily basis, according to a January 2006 Harris Poll . The quality and integrity of television reporting thus significantly impacts the public's ability to evaluate everything from consumer products to medical services to government policies. To reach this audienceÃÂ¢â¬âand to add a veneer of credibility to clients' messagesÃÂ¢â¬âthe public relations industry uses video news releases (VNRs). VNRs are pre-packaged "news" segments and additional footage created by broadcast PR firms, or by publicists within corporations or government agencies. VNRs are designed to be seamlessly integrated into newscasts, and are freely provided to TV stations. Although the accompanying information sent to TV stations identifies the clients behind the VNRs, nothing in the material for broadcast does. Without strong disclosure requirements and the attention and action of TV station personnel, viewers cannot know when the news segment they're watching was bought and paid for by the very subjects of that "report." From an ad for the broadcast PR firm D S Simon Productions  In recent years, the U.S. Congress, the Federal Communications Commission, journalism professors, reporters and members of the general public have expressed concern about VNRs. In response, public relations executives and broadcaster groups have vigorously defended the status quo, claiming there is no problem with current practices. In June 2005, the president of the Radio-Television News Directors Association  (RTNDA), Barbara Cochran , told a reporter that VNRs were "kind of like the Loch Ness Monster . Everyone talks about it, but not many people have actually seen it."