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Corporate Propaganda Still On the News 275

Posted by kdawson
from the corporate-speech dept.
mofomojo writes, "Democracy Now! reports that a new study by the Center for Media and Democracy says Americans are still being shown corporate public relations videos disguised as news reports on newscasts across the country. In April, the Center identified 77 stations using Video News Releases in their newscasts; the findings led to an investigation by the Federal Communications Commission. A followup study has found that 10 of those stations are still airing VNRs today, for a new total of 46 stations in 22 states." From the article: "Most of the VNRs have aired on stations owned by large media conglomerates such as News Corp., Tribune, and Disney. They've also been sponsored by some of the country's biggest corporations including General Motors, GlaxoSmithKline, and Allstate Insurance."
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Corporate Propaganda Still On the News

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  • by Timesprout (579035) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @07:44AM (#16850554)
    Adverts disguised as stories?
  • by Salvance (1014001) * on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @07:54AM (#16850612) Homepage Journal
    I've seen a few of these fake corporate news stories, and usually it's pretty obvious that the story came from a company (particularly for regular viewers, since the local news reporters are typically not involved). As sneaky as this is though, I'd much rather watch corporate ads disguised as news than government propaganda disguised as news [independent.co.uk], something the current administration has been found to do.

    Either way, it's pretty sneaky and low.
  • Has anyone else noticed that at every turn corporations again and again attempt to subvert the powers of the state and twist both public opinion and the law to their own benefit. In many cases, large corporations behave like small, independant countries or baronies, accountable to no one but themselves and largely immune from reprecussion. Only the state can realistically challenge their authority, and even then only with considerable effort and expense.

    The situation in many ways resembles the old medieval baronies, who quarralled and feuded amoung themselves, and methaphoricall and literally stamped on the faces of the general population. The state/king had only limited ability to exercise control and essentially each barony was a virtual state within a state. In many cases, different parts of a country could be at war with one another, or with the monarchy.

    In case anyone thinks this is a bit far fetched, consider this. What if MegaCorp(TM), drove up to your house one day and towed away your car on some flimsy legal pretense? Barons and Lords did this kind of thing all the time. What can you do? It's getting to the point that the police will not even dare to investigate large corporations with their armies of lawyers. Your ability to conclude a successful suit before you grow old and die is also ever decreasing.

    You get a lot of SciFi where in the furture, corporations rule everything. Is this really so far fetched? If they have more de facto power and influence than the nation states in which they reside, then what is to stop them, like the old barons before them, from simply all but forming states of their own? Maybe Richelieu's reforms will be rolled back, just in a different form.
  • Real Story...? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LlamaDragon (97577) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @08:03AM (#16850672) Journal
    Why not link to the the real article [prwatch.org] instead of, or in addition to, the story about the article?
  • by Otter (3800) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @08:31AM (#16850874) Journal
    For that matter, what is this story except a regurgitated press release from one of "the country's biggest" political non-profits?
  • by nietsch (112711) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @08:32AM (#16850890) Homepage Journal
    Most usians may not be familiar with it, but fascism at it's core is the joining of political and corporate powers. Both Italy and Germany in the 30s had huge corporate blocks that had a lot of political power. That may give you some pause next time you see all the 'campaign donations' that flow one way. What do you think flows the other way?

    (oh and mods: please show your immaturiy to mod something down when you don't agree with it)
  • by CastrTroy (595695) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @08:45AM (#16851038) Homepage
    Can they take this out of the magazines too? This kind of stuff really bugs me. They look like articles, and take up 4-5 pages in a magazine, but except for the word "Advertisement" appearing in small at the top of the article, they look just like articles. I can understand this happening in crappy tabloids, but I see it more often in news magazines. It's really quite terrible when companies try to hide their articles under the guise of a magazine article. It's deceiving to the public, and it makes it really annoying to try to find the real articles in a magazine.
  • by Nyph2 (916653) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @08:46AM (#16851044)
    Want something to really worry about in terms of broadcast hyjinks? MTV is using the tried and true subliminal 'power of suggestion' in various spots in their broadcasts in Asia. I happened to be capturing TV via a DVR one evening, and when I played back my sample via the jog wheel, I was able to clearly see a text message inside a faint white rectangular box, overlaid into a short commercial for an upcoming show. It came and went quickly...'progress is now - Fridays on MTV'...not long enough to spot unless you were paying close attention at that moment, but long enough to be captured by the brain for subliminal decoding...ouch. MTVs' idea or broadcast on the behest of some agency, perhaps?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subliminal_messaging# Effectiveness [wikipedia.org]
    "Certain types of subliminal perception (hypnosis, for example) are known to affect the perceiver without any conscious knowledge of the effect on his part. However, there is no strong evidence that the types of messages discussed in this article (ones embedded into normal objects such as posters or movies) are at all effective."

    That's only the wiki quote on the subject. IANAP (but my mom is, so I hear no end of the stuff 2nd hand) but this is way beyond no strong evidence of it being effective. It's -no- evidence of any statistically significant effect in any serious study i.e. as close as you can get to proving it's not effective in any way we we've tried to do it.

    Now, to the topic of the article on the other hand, while many people can recognise stories like these as corporately funded, studies do show stories like these at minimum confuse the issue in statistically significant amounts. i.e. it's worth the companies to spend their money doing things like this rather than directly address the root issues they're trying to spread propaganda about.
    Ontop of this, despite some of this being found out, it doesnt cause enough public backlash on average to harm the company more than it helps. Some don't get found at all, some create a very minor stir, I dont know of any companies getting a major backlash against tactics like this, but if there have been any they're a minority to the point of it still being a sensible buisiness policy to take the risk.
    Until this changes, companies will continue to make business decisions like this because it's simply cheaper, including possible damages from backlash, to effect change in the population & the laws, than to actually fix their problems.
  • by Optikschmoptik (971793) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @08:50AM (#16851092) Homepage

    I know there are a lot of sincere libertarians on this site, and I sympathize with the libertarian idea (breifly, get the government off our backs). But this is what always gets me. If we just deregulate, it leaves a power vacuum, and we're left with these other entities governing us instead. Private, unelected oligarchs get to be in charge, and no one 'gets them off your back' if they decide that getting on your back is going be more profitable.

    VNRs seem to be a symptom of this. There's no law, that I know of (or that I could find cited in either article), forcing stations to disclose a 3rd-party PR puff-piece. In the same department, what is there to discourage corporate conflicts of interest in general between the larger corporations and their news companies (i.e. between selling ads and promoting journalism)? Really, I'm asking, is there anything?

    On the other hand, we do have the internet. I doubt incidents like 'macaca' would get any traction without this big, unregulated, free-for-all of journalism. So let's pretend the market stays totally 'unregulated' for the next 10 years, and AT&T manages to dominate the entire ISP market in, say North Carolina. And they decide that all forum posts, sites, videos and emails critical of Sen. Dole (who happens to be in a close re-election race) violate their Terms Of Service, so they get second-tier delivery, or dropped entirely from their routers and servers. Effectively, it's the pre-internet information landscape all over again, but without those pesky equal-time regulations. Still no government regulation of the internet, but would you feel freer? What, besides faith in (free market == personal freedom) makes you think this wouldn't happen?

  • by Gregory Cox (997625) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @09:04AM (#16851258)
    Yes, but these are worse.

    Slashdot editors don't check the affiliations of people who submit stories, and allow anonymous submissions, so Slashvertisements are possible. However, I don't think anyone expects anything different. The submitters are named, or the story starts "An anonymous reader writes...", and readers are left to draw their own conclusions about any potential bias.

    On the other hand, news channels don't take submissions from just anyone when they make news stories. They're supposed to be deciding what to air themselves, with the aim of informing their viewers. If they use a corporate PR video that looks like a news report, they ought to know the source; the problem is when they deliberately fail to declare who made it, as this means that they are disguising advertisements as news.
  • by ElephanTS (624421) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @09:09AM (#16851306)
    People don't seem to know that 'fascism' was the socio-economic paradigm of choice in the 20's and 30's. It's equivalent (or nearest) today is the 'free market economy'. Of course you're quite right about the US - the merger of state and corporation is technically fascism (tied together with the biggest propaganda machine the world has ever seen: the media). I think we're just in the 'benign' part of this new fascism and the next 10 years will begin to reveal the more sinister aspects of it.
  • by Bastard of Subhumani (827601) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @09:10AM (#16851336) Journal
    Surely you mean "film at 11, brought to you by [insert name of sponsor here]"?
  • by JabberWokky (19442) <slashdot.com@timewarp.org> on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @09:18AM (#16851450) Homepage Journal
    Most news is wire stories and press releases. That it is expected to be any different for television news is a bizarre concept.

    --
    Evan

  • by hugzz (712021) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @09:24AM (#16851568)
    Um maybe it isn't what society deems to be the most important, but what has the most money. I wouldn't be surprised if religion used to have the most money, and then government had the most money, and now business has the most money. It takes money to build big buildings!
  • by Mr. Slippery (47854) <<ten.suomafni> <ta> <smt>> on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @09:52AM (#16851970) Homepage
    Um maybe it isn't what society deems to be the most important, but what has the most money.

    And why do certain groups end up with the most money?

    Because consciously or unconsciously, directly (by forking over cash) or indirectly (through public policy), people direct the flow of money towards them.

    If one group has the most money, that's exactly because society deems them to be the most important.

  • Please define 'we' (Score:3, Insightful)

    by nietsch (112711) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @10:26AM (#16852436) Homepage Journal
    You had to rescue those nations? How did you do that, go back in time? And now those nations have to pay tribute to you with support for all those other wars your country is diving in?
    Pardon me, but have you been drinking the nationalistic-flavoured Kool-aid? All people that fought in WW2 are retired or dead. The politicians that got you in that war are all dead. Do you think you somehow inherited some right over 'your' former allies?
  • by Simon (815) <simon@@@simonzone...com> on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @11:40AM (#16853700) Homepage
    Some people are so fearful of the ghost of socialism that they can't see that their government has become little more than an an oligarchy controlled by the rich elite. The fact that you get so much of your news from News Corporation should be a strong hint of just how impartial that news is.

    To put the whole topic of "corporate bias in the media" in a nutshell: "Beware of advice from the rich, for they do not seek company."

    --
    Simon

  • by Moofie (22272) <lee@ringofsaturnRASP.com minus berry> on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @01:37PM (#16855924) Homepage
    "The truth is that corporations really have more influence than John Q. Public because they maintain a relationship with officials and John doesn't bother. But he could."

    Sure, I could. In the same way that I could become a ninja, or climb Mt. Everest, or fly to the moon. It's not impossible.

    Lobbyists get paid by corporations to do nothing but influence legislators. I get paid to do my job. If I'm not doing my job, and I'm off attempting to get an appointment with legislators, I do not get paid.

    So, no, John Q. Public does not have the same access to legislative services as corporations do.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @04:01PM (#16858816)
    I think he's saying he'd rather see the Telegraph as less pro-Israel. I don't see what anti-semitism has to do with that.
  • by CorSci81 (1007499) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @05:50PM (#16860842) Journal

    Alternatively, I could turn this around and say that typically people who aren't pro-Palestine hate the place because it's "full of Arabs".

    -OR-

    It could also be because you disagree with how Israel handles conflict with Palestinians and has nothing to do with them being Jewish. Just a thought before you run off accusing people of being anti- whatever.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @09:12PM (#16863316)
    Well just as long as you keep believing that with all your might you'll be able keep pretending that Israel can do no wrong and that and and all criticism of it is, by definition, unjustified slandering by racists. You'd might as well believe in the tooth fairy, but hey, if it makes you sleep easier at night...

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