Friday, September 24, 2021


January 2, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Steve Waldman

Steve Waldman, who recently headed an FCC panel that looked into so-called pay-for-play news operations, has refuted claims by the National Association of Broadcasters that the findings of the panel provided “little to no evidence that ‘pay for play’ sponsorships in news, where advertisers are allowed to dictate news scripts, are a systematic problem.” Waldman, responding in an article appearing in the Columbia Journalism Review, maintained that “the evidence was vast and persuasive” and cited numerous examples including: “In a 10-month period, 77 stations ran 98 instances of 36 video news releases without disclosing that they were press releases.” Video news releases are generally produced in-house by companies or their ad agencies and look like other news content, often with actors pretending to be newscasters. Waldman noted that even when stations do disclose that they are running such ads, the disclosure often appears during a fast-moving scroll at the end of the program. While the FCC is now considering Waldman’s recommendation that the disclosure also be posted online, the broadcasters contend that viewers will not seek out such postings. But Waldman observes, “It’s not that every citizen would now spend their hours on the FCC website. It’s that journalists, citizen groups, and competitors would use the government data to create consumer-friendly information sources and reports.” Moreover, Waldman concludes, “It’s worth reminding ourselves … that the organizations arguing against better disclosure represent local news operations — yes, the same news organizations that routinely (and appropriately) demand greater transparency from public officials. Can these local TV news organizations really be so tone-deaf as to demand greater transparency from everyone else but resist even the most rudimentary, common-sense forms of transparency for themselves?”