Last updated: February 21, 2008 - 12:10am
[SOURCE: Washington Post, AUTHOR: Paul Farhi]
FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein yesterday proposed an investigation into "sponsored" charitable drives by TV stations, saying such campaigns are "a serious breach of the public's trust" and potentially illegal. Separately, Free Press, a media-reform advocacy group, said it would file a complaint today with the FCC over the same issues. The group, based in Massachusetts, helped spur an FCC investigation into the Bush administration's payments to pundit Armstrong Williams to promote secretly the No Child Left Behind Act in radio and TV appearances. Free Press campaign director Timothy Karr said his group wants the FCC to strengthen its sponsor identification rules, which require broadcasters to announce when they have received compensation for an editorial segment. As detailed in a story in The Washington Post on Wednesday, the sponsors pay the stations for commercials promoting themselves and the charity, and then are featured in the stations' news coverage. The stations typically don't disclose these arrangements to viewers, which critics say violates journalistic ethics by blurring the distinction between advertising and news.
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