Fox 9 fined by FCC for passing off General Motors PR as "news"

Not necessarily the news.
Not necessarily the news.

The FCC has fined KMSP/Fox 9 $4,000 for failing to tell viewers that it passed off public relations video as "news" in 2006.

The fake news segment -- a video news release, or VNR -- talked about consumer demand for convertibles in the summer. That sounds plausible enough, but the only cars shown and talked about in the segment were made by General Motors.

Television stations can -- and frequently do -- package VNR's as "news," but they are required by federal law to tell the audience where the PR is coming from, and whether it was aired "in exchange for money, services or other valuable consideration."

Fox 9 said that neither the station nor employees gained financially from airing the piece. But the FCC ruled that while no money may have changed hands, airing the VNR amounted to free advertising, or "valuable consideration," for General Motors -- a huge TV advertiser.

Fox 9 also tried to argue that airing the VNR was within its "journalistic and editorial discretion," and that the FCC's ruling would somehow infringe on its constitutional rights. Wrong, the FCC said. If you're going to shill for some commercial interest, you need to tell your audience what you're doing.

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