The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) has released a report titled “Fake TV News: Widespread and Undisclosed” on the increasing practice of television news programs repackaging slick PR pieces by corporations and passing off these video news releases as the work of the station’s reporters.
The report identifies two instances where WSYR-TV 9 and medical reporter Carrie Lazarus acted as shills for drug companies, while passing themselves off as objective reporters.
On December 26, 2005 Channel 9 aired a video news release created for the maker of an arthritis drug. The piece was not identified as prepared public relations and touted the drug as a “major health breakthrough”. The CMD report points out that a simple web search would have turned up statements from the National Institutes of Health stating that the drug was not any more effective than placebos in a recent trial.
On December 12, 2005 Channel 9 aired a video news release touting a cream to relieve symptoms of eczema. Again, the station made the piece look like it was created by the news team and not a public relations firm. The FDA requires all commercials, and even these pseudo-news video news releases, to include warnings about potentially harmful side effects. News reports about the drugs aren’t held to that standard. Channel 9 edited the warnings section out of the video news release before broadcast.