VNR: FCC says pay for play doesn’t matter

The Federal Communications Commission says just because you’re not getting paid to air it, doesn’t mean you get a free ride when it comes to identifying VNRs for viewers.

According to Broadcasting & Cable, the FCC has issued four more proposed fines against Comcast for airing four video news releases (VNRs) on non-controversial topics for which the cable company was never paid a cent.

Comcast argued that the sponsorship-identification rules don’t apply to cable, but that even if they did, no sponsorship identification is required unless they were paid or otherwise compensated to run the VNRs or unless they dealt with political or other important issues.

The FCC disagreed, saying the rules do apply to “cable origination” programming and to free, nonpolitical VNRs. In fact, the FCC said that “the VNR itself was the ‘valuable consideration’ provided.”

Producers, do yourself and the viewers a favor, if you use a VNR, identify the source. If you need help, RTNDA offers guidelines for proper attribution.


Giving objectivity a bad name

Journalists sometimes miss or underplay big stories by trying to be objective in the wrong way, says UNC’s Phil Meyer. Instead of presenting “both sides” and letting the audience decide, Meyer argues in the new Yale Climate Media Forum that journalists should be objective in their method, not their result.

In other words, journalists should act more like scientists: collect information, look for patterns, construct a theory, and then provide an objective test of the theory. Objectivity in this sense means asking a question of the data in a way that will protect you from being fooled by the answer.

To do this well, he points out, journalists need more than just general knowledge because “journalism’s main activity is not gathering information but processing it.” He’s absolutely right.  Even if you’re not a beat reporter, pick some topic or other you care about and get smarter.  It will serve you and your audience well.