Strapped for cash and time, local news stations are turning to a quick fix to slap together news stories. They’re called VNRs or “video news releases.” Basically a PR firm puts together a package with background footage, interviews, and even helpful scripts. The package seeks to promote products, persons, or to massage public opinion on issues in ways favorable to corporations. All the local station has to do is have one of their reporters do a voice over and boom, you got yourself some news. The problem is that news is being shaped by a subjective entity with a commercial interest at stake, and there’s no disclosure to the viewers that they’re not watching independent reporting.
The FCC, always a source of amusement for this website, has decided to crack down on Comcast for broadcasting VNRs or “Video News Releases.” VNRs are produced by PR firms for use as filler by lazy TV news producers. It’s a great deal for TV: They get free content and don’t have to deal with the pressure of doing their jobs properly, and the company gets product placement. Consumers are the only losers.