FTC Petition Press Release 5/8/01 


Press Release

Local TV "News" Shows Falsely Advertised as News


Contact: Shannon Service

Full Text of Petition

In a Formal Petition to Federal Trade Commission, TV Watchdogs Argue that Local Stations Lure News Consumers to Info-tainment Shows with False Ads

Denver, RMMW (May 8)—In an action that could have a wide impact on the local television news industry, Rocky Mountain Media Watch today formally petitioned the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to declare advertisements promoting Denver’s local TV "news" programs as false and deceptive.

RMMW’s 17-page petition states that by any reasonable standard, the entertainment-oriented content of the local TV "news" programs cannot be considered news.

The Denver-based media watchdog organization bases its argument, in part, on the fact that local TV stations — which use virtually identical advertising tactics around the country — are licensed by the federal government to operate not in pure commercial terms but in the "public interest."

RMMW’s FTC petition states: "A public trustee is charged with a heightened standard of conduct and cannot act exclusively in its own self-interest. This heightened responsibility mandates that the stations balance the interests of the public against their own commercial interests."

In its petition, RMMW argues that by restricting the use of the word "news" in advertisements by local TV stations, the FTC would not be engaging in censorship but in consumer protection.

"The stations have the clear right to broadcast shows solely depicting weather, sports, mayhem, and fluff," states the petition. "The stations could offer all-mayhem-all-the-time shows, if they want. However, it is false and deceptive to lure news consumers to such shows by advertising them as ‘news.’"

Rocky Mountain Media Watch called on the FTC to order Denver stations KCNC, KMGH, KUSA, and KWGN to accurately advertise future programming so as not to mislead the public—possibly replacing the word "news" with "info-tainment." RMMW suggested that the FTC issue guidelines for news programming consistent with journalistic standards set by the Society of Professional Journalists or other professional organizations of journalists.

The full text of RMMW’s Petition to the Federal Trade Commission can be found on its web site, www.bigmedia.org.

Rocky Mountain Media Watch, has received national acclaim for its campaign to hold local television news stations to the basic standards of professional journalism.