Onus on news groups to put end to VNR debate

The heated debate surrounding the use of VNRs on TV news broadcasts has reached a clamorous level of late, considering the recent FCC lawsuit against Comcast.

The heated debate surrounding the use of VNRs on TV news broadcasts has reached a clamorous level of late, considering the recent FCC lawsuit against Comcast. The company was fined a total of $20,000 for using VNRs on its CN8 network.

The Radio-Television News Directors Association (RTNDA) and 70 major broadcasters have all rallied in defense of Comcast, saying the suit is tantamount to censorship. In contesting the suit, the RTNDA and the news departments, not to mention VNR producers, are correctly supporting broadcasters' ability to supplement their coverage with corporate-supplied footage. Litigating such a union when apparently no money exchanges hands is an overreach of the government's power.

The Federal Communications Commission is correctly serving the US citizens' right to know where footage originates. And no amount of rhetoric will change the fact that a corporate-produced video is less likely to be critical of a particular subject than an independent, news-produced video.

Both sides have valid claims, but only the news organizations have the ability to end the weary debate.

The only way to end the governmental incursion is for the broadcasters and news producers to come to a universal VNR disclosure standard. As final conduits to the public, they are the only ones who control the final product. Unfortunately, many outlets have seemed unwilling to require labeling out of embarrassment of their use of VNRs or other unexplained reasons.

The news organizations must realize that either through proactive means or via the brunt force of the FCC, tomorrow's VNRs will be broadcast with labels.

While the FCC's suit against Comcast is unfortunate, it brings home a key point. Only news organizations and their broadcast partners can put an end to this issue.

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