Feb
01
2013

FAIR REPORT: 13th Annual Fear & Favor Review

Revealing the hidden influence behind the news

FebCovSlider

It’s a fair indication of the current state of play in U.S. media that, in 2012, TV newscasts were acknowledged to be “increasingly seeded with corporate advertising masquerading as news” (Washington Post, 1/3/12)—and the regulatory response was to call, not for an end to the practice of deceiving audiences, but for broadcasters to make note of such arrangements in an online file. While we work on creating the sort of unfettered news media that democracy requires, calling out compromised reporting as we do each year in Fear & Favor is just another way to note where and why the current […]

Nov
01
2012

SoundBites

Extra! November 2012

Don’t Look to NYT  to ‘Litigate’ the Facts Margaret Sullivan, the new New York Times public editor (9/16/12), used the topic of “voter fraud” to illustrate the concept of “false balance”―when two sides are treated as equivalent even when one side has reality on its side. Despite Republican efforts to pass laws to prevent voting by the ineligible, research finds next to no examples of this problem―but coverage often treats the absence of fraudulent voting as a partisan assertion (Extra!, 10/12). While Sullivan rightly observed that “journalists need to make every effort to get beyond the spin and help readers […]

May
01
2012

PBS Responds on Dow-Funded Series

PBS ombud Michael Getler (4/27/12) agrees that the Dow Chemical Corporation's sponsorship of a PBS series violates PBS underwriting guidelines. PBS, unfortunately, stands by its show. A FAIR Action Alert (4/23/12) pointed out that the decision to allow Dow to sponsor the series America Revealed, which deals with issues that closely track Dow's business interests, flies in the face of PBS funding guidelines. Noting that he had received some 500 messages inspired by the alert, Getler agreed, saying that "the points raised by FAIR were fair ones, in my view, and many of the letters were quite comprehensive in their […]

Apr
27
2012

Mark Weisbrot on Argentina's Oil, Justin Elliott on Campaign Ad Disclosure

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Download MP3 This week on CounterSpin: Argentina’s move to re-nationalize its oil company, taking it back from the Spanish company Repsol, is not getting good reviews in the corporate press overseas or here at home. The move will hurt and further isolate Argentina, say the critics. We’ll talk to economist Mark Weisbrot for another view. Also on the show: Campaign season means a flood of political ads intended to influence your vote. The FCC has proposed a measure aimed at making it easier to figure out who’s buying those ads, it’s public information after all, and you’ll never guess who’s […]

Apr
23
2012

Is 'America Revealed'--or PBS?

Dow-sponsored public TV series tracks Dow's product lines

The four-part series America Revealed, airing on PBS stations this month, looks at big-picture economic issues, from agriculture to transportation to manufacturing. The series underwriter? The Dow Chemical Company, whose commercial interests closely track the subjects covered in the PBS series. The first episode (4/11/12) focused on large-scale agriculture, which is one of the industries in which Dow is a major player. The program featured an extended look at the corn industry, including efforts to control pests. As the program explained, the food industry "needed a game changer" in that fight. And it got one: The "genetically modified organism, better […]

Mar
01
2011

11th Annual Fear & Favor Report

How power shapes the news

U.S. media consumers are used to magazines where ads outnumber stories, to on-air hosts who contractually consume brand-name drinks, to “consideration provided by” this and “brought to you by” that. But when it comes to the news, many still maintain at least the kernel of expectation that reports in the paper or on TV have more to do with journalistic judgment than with anything else. The Fear & Favor report is about some of the things that come between that image and reality on a daily basis. From pushy advertisers to heavy-handed owners and local power players, there are a […]

Feb
01
2011

Scientific American Waffles on the Science of Global Warming

Is climate ‘THE issue of our time’ or a ‘doomsday obsession’?

“Climate is the issue of our time,” says Scientific American editor-in-chief Mariette DiChristina (Observations, 10/28/10). So why does her magazine keep treating human-caused global warming as an open question? DiChristina was responding to criticism her magazine had received (Climate Progress, 10/26/10; FAIR Blog, 10/27/10) over a November 2010 article by Michael Lemonick about Judith Curry, a climate scientist whose critiques of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are often cited by climate denialists. The article—subheaded “Why Can’t We Have a Civil Conversation About Climate?”—left the impression that the truth on climate change is somewhere in the middle: Climate scientists […]

Dec
01
2010

Creating the Illusion of Popular Demand

Corporate realities behind ‘reality TV’

Flavor of Love/Public Enemy's Flava Flav--Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons/Jnforte

Former VH1 programmer and Flavor of Love creator Michael Hirschorn has said of reality TV, “If women didn’t want these shows, they wouldn’t get made.” This gender-specific variant on Fox programmer (and Joe Millionaire mastermind) Mike Darnell’s “giving people what they want” mantra ignores a central truth: Marketing plays a mammoth role in generating the illusion of populist demand. Without 2000’s Survivor, the reality genre may not have become a network mainstay. But behind Survivor’s long-term, landscape-shifting impact was the relentless promotion of the series by Viacom, which had recently merged with CBS and Infinity Broadcasting. Survivor wasn’t only a […]