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Corporate Propaganda Still On the News 275

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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  • Hello ! (Score:1, Interesting)

    by moseman ( 190361 ) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @09:01AM (#16850662)
    Shit, they are still showing political stories disguised as news too. kdawson likes those.
  • what real news? .. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by rs232 ( 849320 ) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @09:04AM (#16850674)
    There isn't any real news. Don't you realize it yet. Stories are generated and fed to the media by the PR departments of the various interests. How it works is a bunch of 'journalists' sit in a room and generate feel good stories about the establishment and negative ones about whoever we happened to be currently at war with. You see it doesn't really matter if what is reported happened, all is required is the 'facts' be spun in favour of the winners. Like when Bush recently legalised the torture of prisoners, NBC reported this as Bush banning torture.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @09:10AM (#16850730)
    You can tell what a society deems the most important based on the size of the buildings erected for it. For much of the Middle Ages, churches would be the largest buildings, with giant cathedrals constructed as demonstrations of the church's power.

    At some point following the Renaissance, government buildings became the largest buildings. No longer would the town church be the largest building, but instead the local government building would be the largest. The state had become the largest power.

    Who do the largest buildings we erect today represent? The most powerful and important entities create the largest buildings. When you see a city skyline, what makes up most of the largest buildings?

    Can you even see city hall in most modern city skylines?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @09:15AM (#16850752)
    But also for other special interest groups we're supposed to like.

    It's nice to see that somebody else finally noticed. Glenn Reynolds was writing about this problem back in 2002:,2933,42050,00.html []

    Recycling is supposed to be a good thing, so you'd think that media organizations would be proud when they do it. But in fact, they tend to keep it quiet.

    I'm not talking about aluminum cans here, but about the tendency of media organizations to turn press releases and written-to-order opinion pieces into apparently objective accounts. This happens all the time, partly because of media laziness, and partly because of ingenuity on the part of the various advocacy groups that depend on media coverage to advance their agendas and promote their fundraising campaigns.

    The first part of this formula, media laziness, was demonstrated by journalism students here at the University of Tennessee a few years ago. They produced a fake press release for a non-existent student group opposed to political correctness and sent it to various news organizations. Some ran the item; some even embellished the report of an event that never happened with additional details that weren't in the phony press release. None called the contact number (which was genuine) or did anything else to check its validity. Yet when they were exposed, their response was to call the experiment "unethical." []

    News stories, to a degree seldom appreciated by the general public, are often the product of press releases generated by trade associations and interest groups. Often those releases are converted into news stories by the simple expedient of placing a reporter's byline on top. Television news stories (especially those appearing on local stations) are often supplied fully produced, with blank spots left for the local news reporter to insert commentary that makes the story appear his or her own. Opinion columns are often "placed" by businesses or interest groups to support a particular point of view -- often, they are even written by those groups and then run with the byline of distinguished individuals, or even regular commentators, who have barely read the piece, much less written it. Indeed, the Sasso "attack video" was something of this sort, for the journalists who broke the Biden/Kinnock story did not at first disclose their source.

    Most readers and viewers have small appreciation of how little of what they see on television or read in newspapers and magazines is original with the reporters, editors, and producers involved. Yet in fact news organizations are highly dependent on predigested information from public relations firms, government officials, and advocacy groups, information that is often passed on to their readers and viewers with no indication that it is not original. That problem is not new, but it has gotten worse in recent years. . . .

    Although a "video news release" is still more expensive to produce than a standard paper press release, they have become much more common. According to a recent poll, seventy-five percent of TV news directors reported using video news releases at least once per day.

  • by tomhudson ( 43916 ) <barbara.hudson@[ ... m ['bar' in gap]> on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @09:15AM (#16850754) Journal

    There isn't any real news. Don't you realize it yet. Stories are generated and fed to the media by the PR departments of the various interests. How it works is a bunch of 'journalists' sit in a room and generate feel good stories about the establishment and negative ones about whoever we happened to be currently at war with.

    Don't laugh - I knew a guy who worked for one of the weekly tabloids (hint - they encouraged people to subscribe by giving away 50-cent lottery tickets way back when), and they had to come up with goofy stories every week, so they made them up. Improbable stories ... They made up one of a 90-year-old woman giving birth to a baby, stuck a random name and state on it ... and sure enough, there actually WAS a 90-year-old woman by that name in that state. She sued, they delayed the lawsuit ("Hey, she'll die before we get to court ..." and when she stubbornly refused to just lay down and die, they had to settle a decade later.

    So yes, a lot of the stories you see "in the news" at the checkout counter are pure fiction.

  • by skeezix-the-cat ( 726758 ) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @09:18AM (#16850784)
    The trite reply to this article is -DON'T watch it-. I threw out my TV in 2000; I have a Mac, w/ great DVD capability, I rent stuff that's really great --Ken Burns stuff (jazz..), The Sopranos (isn't organized crime SO MUCH MORE interesting than the disorganized variety?), HBO and Showtime specials..... Other than that, TV is a wasteland. Go re-rent Clooney's 'Goodnight and Good Luck', pay attention to this gracious man's words about television. Show your kids.... But mostly, TV's PURE drek. DREK!! Makes kids stupid, and adults, even stupider. DON'T DO IT!! Resist your corporate overlords!! cheers, skeezix-the-cat.
  • by djupedal ( 584558 ) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @09:22AM (#16850802)
    One factor that seems to be overlooked is viewer ability to smell a rat and subsequently not be taken in. I feel more people realize the segment is a crafted fake, versus a genuine news spot, than the agencys doing the monitoring assume. I know I've seen these and have been able to tell, and if I can detect the fraud, so can others.

    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?
  • by 91degrees ( 207121 ) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @09:23AM (#16850816) Journal
    Thats not totally true. When you have no money, you become a lot more powerful. You have the same amont of influence as someone with very little, but you no longer have the weakness of having something to lose. Take a look at the McLibel case []. The defendents had no money, so nothing to lose from a protracted legal case and a judgement against them. If they had a house and savings then that would have been at risk.
  • Governments (Score:3, Interesting)

    by camperdave ( 969942 ) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @09:33AM (#16850900) Journal
    Not only can the corporations bully the little guy, they can bully the Government. After all, some of these corporations are global in scale, and have economic resources that dwarf those of many countries. I think that's why Microsoft only got a slap on the wrist in their anti-monopoly case aa while back.
  • by real gumby ( 11516 ) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @09:40AM (#16850980)
    ...usually it's pretty obvious that the story came from a company...
    The problem is: how do you know?
    Perhaps you only notice the poorly-done ones. After all, it's common to have radio DJs do spots for local businesses, which also is clearly an ad. But it's also common for DJs to work product mentions into the morning banter. The same applies to TV: how can you tell if that news segment on the local Coke plant was just a random filler or an ad placement by the bottler? What's the difference?
  • by SkunkPussy ( 85271 ) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @10:52AM (#16851976) Journal
    How he sounds doesn't make it any less true...

    I would say the media is an unwitting propaganda machine but a propaganda machine no less. It is a (mostly) free media so there is no reason that any individual cannot use the media for their own propaganda...assuming they can fund their own publicity/marketing department. So the media devolves more or less to be the mouthpiece of those with money (power) - government and coporations.

    Those points of view that do not have the resources to outshout other points of view do not get represented.
  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @11:00AM (#16852090)
    The media, at least mass media, are by their very definition and size required to be corporations by themselves. The difference to "normal" corporations is that the goods they sell are information.

    Or opinion.

    In a democracy, you cannot rule against the people. Or so you're told in school. Actually, you cannot rule against the public opinion. If that opinion is based on information and facts, and people finding their own opinions, this is actually a good thing.

    That's not the reality today, though.

    Public opinion is made and shaped by the media. You're told what you're supposed to hear, you're shown what you're supposed to see and more often than not, you're also told what you're supposed to think and believe because "that's the public opinion". To support it you often get to see some statistics that make the statistician in me cringe, because you can see easily how crooked they are sometimes.

    And hey, if "the people" believe that, how can it be wrong? 10000 say yes, you say no, now who's more likely wrong? You? Or 10000 others?

    There's a carefully crafted and delicate balance of power (and money) between government, corporations and media (corporations). You, the voter, don't matter anymore. You're being shifted around and moved, statistically dissected and examined to see what spin would make you vote this or the other way.
  • by Phoenix666 ( 184391 ) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @11:50AM (#16852786)
    One common myth is that corporations pour millions and millions into a candidate's campaign coffers. But they don't and can't. FEC regulations limit donations from one individual or organization to a given candidate or elected official to $2500 in a calendar year. Neither can they give $2500 each to 100 employees on the understanding that they'll give the money to that candidate individually. If they get caught with a scheme like that, or even encouraging their employees to donate to the candidate, they will be in hot water and so will the candidate.

    That also goes for what the FEC calls "in-kind" donations, what is popularly called "soft" money. That is considered to be the same as giving them hard cash.

    What corporations can and do do is say to candidate X, "We sure love what you stand for, and are sorry we can't give you more. But do you have colleagues who believe as you do whom we could also support?" Then candidate X gets to cherry pick his/her supporters who are also in or seeking office, and the corporation gets to spread its money broadly.

    Nevertheless, the level of maximum contribution to a given candidate is low enough that we private citizens might conceivably match it. If you can go beyond that and do what the corporations do, you will get decent access to the candidate on par with what they have. I've seen it, especially on the local level. Doctors, Dentists, and lawyers, usually.

    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.
  • Re:Governments (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Phoenix666 ( 184391 ) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @12:01PM (#16852964)
    I am an ardent populist and progressive (in the T.R. sense of the word) who's worked at a lot of big corporations in New York. I have to say that looking from the inside and having access to the other side of the table, corporations are not quite the monolith that popular wisdom believes. Every brand, product, and campaign I've ever seen they live in constant fear of angry consumers suing them.

    Sure, a $5 million judgement might not mean much to a company the size of GE on the whole, but if your brand or departmental budget is $4 million/yr you better believe the bean counters will be pissed if your fuck-up costs the company more than your budget. It's true that GE will continue, but you the brand manager almost certainly will not. So it's the individual interest that drives corporate behavior in reality.

    Not to mention that most people who work in big corporations are reasonably honest people. Everyone tends to think that evil unscrupulous people rise to the top, but they very largely don't because that is the sort of behavior that winds up getting the corporation sued. The people who rise to the top are clever politicians, but that's another discussion.

    In sum, you and we the consumers have so much more power than we think. And even just writing an angry letter does make a difference, because I guarantee you it will get read.

Today is the first day of the rest of your lossage.