FCC (still) investigating fake news

The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) did a study of news stations in America and documented many cases where the true source of video news releases (VNR) was not clearly disclosed:

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.

The FCC responded by announcing an investigation of their own, as noted by the CMD:

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.

The fines go higher for repeat offenses but there appears to be a maximum of less than $500,000. The CMD report highlighted over seventy stations, including more than twenty from Walt Disney Company’s ABC network and seven from the Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc.. Wonder if the FCC will find more and how far back in time they will consider, now that video archives are available almost anywhere. The Independent has a story that the FCC investigations started almost immediately after the CMD report was published last April:

Federal authorities are actively investigating dozens of American television stations for broadcasting items produced by the Bush administration and major corporations, and passing them off as normal news. Some of the fake news segments talked up success in the war in Iraq, or promoted the companies’ products.

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