The Federal Communications Commission yesterday announced four more fines for video news releases (VNRs) aired without disclosure. The fines totaling $16,000 have been levied against the Comcast cable company.
The FCC faults the VNRs for their promotional content, saying it goes far beyond the acceptable "fleeting or transient references to products or brand names." The VNRs named in the fine include: General Mills "Don't Be a Couch Potato" VNR promoting Wheaties brand cereal; an Allstate VNR promoting life insurance; General Mills "Bisquick 75th Anniversary" VNR; and a VNR by Trend Micro Software promoting their computer security software.
Just last week the commission proposed a $4,000 fine for the use of footage from a sleep-aid VNR on a Comcast news channel. It was the Commission's first-ever fine for violating the sponsorship-identification rules.
Do you see a difference in a VNR and a news release? If so, then applaud the FCC's decision and CMD's fight.
I don't see a difference, so I think the issue is an insult to TV journalists. They're trained to decipher legit, viewer-interested news (even if from a VNR) from junk. Just like print and other professional journalists are trained to decipher legit news ideas and news releases from crappy story pitches and news releases. But, do print journalists disclose the source or idea for a story? No.
So, why should TV journalists disclose the source of their stories? If the VNRs and other stories TV stations choose to air is crap, their viewership will drop.