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Feds Probe "Fake News" at 77 Stations
Media Week
Todd Shields
August 14, 2006

Federal regulators are asking scores of broadcasters whether they failed to tell viewers about the sponsors behind corporate video releases presented as news, a practice criticized by watchdog groups who say showing "fake news" is an illegal breach of trust with local communities.

The Federal Communications Commission has issued 42 formal letters of inquiry to holders of 77 broadcast licenses, the office of Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein said Monday.

"The public has a legal right to know who seeks to persuade them so they can make up their own minds about the credibility of the information presented," Adelstein said. "Shoddy practices make it difficult for viewers to tell the difference between news and propaganda."

In April, Free Press and the Center for Media and Democracy filed a complaint with the FCC after the center conducted a study finding unattributed video news releases had been aired at 77 stations. It said owners of those stations included Sinclair Broadcast Group, News Corp.'s Fox Television Stations, Clear Channel Communications, Tribune Co. and Viacom/CBS. The non-profit groups said the practice "has infiltrated broadcast news programming across the country."

The FCC did not immediately release who received its letters, which Reuters reported were to have been sent on Friday.

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