Fake TV News: Video News Releases

Submitted by Daniel Price on

From June 2005 to March 2006, the Center for Media and Democracy documented television newsrooms' use of selected video news releases (VNRs) and satellite media tour (SMT) "interviews." While these 36 examples represent less than one percent of VNRs offered to newsrooms each year, this report provides the most comprehensive survey of fake TV news to date.

Click on the links below to read more about each VNR or SMT, including the client(s) that funded it, the TV stations that aired it, and the deceptive techniques that newsrooms used to disguise it as genuine journalism. You can also compare Quicktime videos of the original VNRs with selected newscasts that incorporated them.

A Fake News Report About Fake E-Mail
Trend Micro
A software company VNR is nationally syndicated through the Tribune network.
Safety Information Sold Separately
Stiefel Laboratories
A pharmaceutical company dodges federal regulations through fake TV news.
Work Woes at WBFS-33
Towers Perrin
A Florida newscast uses a station reporter to disguise a VNR as journalism.
"Is Your Child Constantly Sick?"
Quest Diagnostics
An L.A. station drops a two-minute medical commercial into their newscast.
Shopping Advice from a Store-Bought Expert
Panasonic, Namco, Techno Source
A seemingly-impartial consumer advocate shills for three corporations.
A Planted Story on Ethanol Plants
Siemens AG
Five stations run an optimistic news feature that's secretly fueled by profit.
Prescription-Strength Spin at WCBS-2
Leiner Health Products
A top-market station turns a corporate VNR into an imbalanced medical feature.
A Spitting Image of Genuine News
American Dental Association
The Fox Network adopts a dental industry VNR and distributes it nationally.
Changing the Past, One Newscast At a Time
General Motors
Three stations help GM stake a false claim in Internet history.
The "Internet Mom" Strikes Again
Texas Instruments, Motorola, Nokia, Swiffer
A TV tech expert is secretly paid to promote consumer electronic products.
Steering Wheel Spin On Three Newscasts
Siemens VDO
A fake report on state-of-the-art car mechatronics is purely corporate-driven.
Journalistic Malpractice at WSYR-9
A Clear Channel station inflicts fake and misleading health news on their viewers.
Pharma Deception in San Francisco
Half of a station's "medical breakthrough" story comes from a drug company VNR.
What's In Your Newscast?
Capital One
An NBC station scams its viewers with an anti-scam VNR from a national bank.
At Halloween Time, the Candy Ads Dress Up as News
Masterfoods, 1-800-Flowers
A St. Louis TV reporter does a word-for-word re-voice on a publicist VNR.
A Few Good Wrenches
General Motors
Three stations run a VNR designed to help GM recruit young mechanics.
Bad Business in Beantown
Toshiba, Fisher Price, Scholastic Media
A New England NBC affiliate serves viewers a Christmas sham.
Technology Report Secretly Has Intel Inside
A Sinclair-owned station keeps deceiving their viewers with fake journalism.
VNR Gets Extra Mileage Out of Car Commercial
A news report about a Cadillac ad is actually a Cadillac ad itself.
A Press Push for Pancakes
General Mills
Four newscasts deceive their viewers with a stealth ad for Bisquick.
Sandwich Spin, Served Up Fresh
Local stations make a cold cut combo out of a Subway VNR and SMT.
Dodge is My Co-Pilot
Three stations air a VNR that promotes child safety (and Chrysler-brand vehicles).
Spinning the Other Way at KYW-3
A Philadelphia station runs an unlabeled VNR but reverses the story's context.
Coverage They Can Count On
General Motors
A Michigan newscast delivers an uncut VNR about GM's corporate HQ.
"Accidental Housewife" Intentionally Hides Her Sponsor Ties
Knowledge Adventure, Brother, Build-A-Bear, Tide-to-Go, Drugstore.com
A TV homemaking expert just happens to love all her clients' products.
Unfiltered Spin from an Internet Porn-Blocker
L.A. station adapts a promotional news release about a child-safe search engine.
Culinary Advice Served From a Can
Hass Avocado Board, Heinz, Canned Food Alliance, Circuit City
On two newscasts, a pair of clowning chefs dish out the paid product promotion.
Sallie Mae
The nation's "#1 paying-for-college" company also pays for favorable news coverage.
Valarie D'Elia: Frequent Flying Flack
Sandals, Viking River Cruises, Air Tahiti Nui
A travel expert stars in corporate VNRs, then smuggles them into her own TV reports.
Nashville Station Cheats on Tax Report
Jackson Hewitt
A local ABC news story is secretly filed by a national tax preparation franchise.
The Buzz Gets a Rush
Victoria’s Secret
A morning show that delivers "news with personality" also delivers VNRs with T&A.
Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the SmartScreen™
AdSpace Networks
A CBS station runs fake report on high-tech mall displays.
No Accounting for Ethics
American Institute of Certified Public Accountants
A Southern ABC station runs a rock & roll news story secretly planted by CPAs.
A Fresh-Cut Front For the Flower Flacks
Flower Promotion Organization
A planted Valentine's Day report secretly stems from rose peddlers.
Inorganic Chemistry at KOKH-25
Oklahoma City station runs a fake news feature from an online-dating service.
A Ruse By Any Other Name...
Matrixx Initiatives
An NBC station tries to turn a brand-name VNR into a generic news report.