The Federal Communications Commission has fined cable company Comcast for airing a story that critics call fake news. The fine was a response to a video news release that aired on a Comcast cable network on the east coast. But as Colin Fogarty report, the same video news release aired in Portland.
In September 2006 KPTV Channel 12’s morning news program included this blurb about a sleep aid called Rescue Sleep.
Anchor: "The benefits…Rescue Sleep is cheaper than sleeping pills and there are no side effects. Plus the biggest benefit…Jennifer Anniston takes it, so it must be good."
What KPTV failed to mention was the video used in the segment, along with the claims, came from the company that makes Rescue Sleep.
Video news releases, as they are known, have come under heavy fire from media critics. But one watchdog group in Wisconson goes even further.
Diane Farsetta, with the Center for Media and Democracy says KPTV and stations that aired the Rescue Sleep segment violated federal communication law.
Diane Farsetta: "There are measures in there that are known as sponsorship identification requirements. And basically what they say is if there is sponsored material that’s put out by TV stations or radio stations that the listeners or views should be informed, should be told this is actually sponsored material."
Farsetta’s group filed a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission against KPTV and against Comcast's CN8 network, which has about 20 cable stations on the east coast.
This week, the FCC issued a preliminary ruling. The agency levied a $4000 fine against Comcast. Farsetta says it’s the first time the FCC has fined a cable company for failing to identify a news segment as an ad.
Diane Farsetta: "With their actions now, they’re defining what sponsorship identification requirements mean in the current media landscape."
Comcast told the FCC that the sponsorship identification rule should not apply to cable companies. Comcast also argues that the CN8 network did not get paid to air the sleep aid video news release and therefore it should not be fined.
After the FCC issued the fine, Comcast released a statement saying it was "perplexed" by the action.
The FCC has not issued a decision on the complaint against Portland’s KPTV. The FCC says it will not comment on an open complaint. KPTV would not comment and neither would its parent company Merideth.