Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Media-Industrial Complex

Anyone who pays attention to the bloviators on Fox News, MSNBC, CNN, et al., should read this article by Sebastian Jones in the February 11, 2010 issue of The Nation. In it, Jones reveals the extent to which paid corporate board members and consultants are appearing on cable news shows, labeled only as Republican or Democratic "strategists," and airing policy advice that would directly benefit their undisclosed corporate sponsors. Jones reports that:
Since 2007 at least seventy-five registered lobbyists, public relations representatives and corporate officials--people paid by companies and trade groups to manage their public image and promote their financial and political interests--have appeared on MSNBC, Fox News, CNN, CNBC and Fox Business Network with no disclosure of the corporate interests that had paid them. Many have been regulars on more than one of the cable networks, turning in dozens--and in some cases hundreds--of appearances.
So, when former Governor and  Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge appeared on Chris Matthews's Hardball program in December to give his advice on policies to assist with economic recovery, he strongly urged investments in nuclear power. He did not bother to mention that he is paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to serve on the board of Exelon, the nation's largest nuclear power company. When Bernard Whitman, a corporate image consultant working for, among others, AIG, appeared on Fox News in March 2009 and said that the public needed to "'move beyond anger, frustration and hysteria'" to solve the economic crisis, he did not mention that he was being paid by AIG.

Apparently, the cable news networks are complicit in this - at least they are often aware of their guest commentators' conflicts of interest. The fact that they do not require full disclosure of those conflicts is both unethical and constitutes poor journalism. Reallly, no surprise there. It seems somehow redundant to accuse cable news of poor journalism.

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