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Reviews TV

When drug news is no news

BMJ 2006; 332 doi: (Published 13 April 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;332:919
  1. Jeanne Lenzer, medical investigative journalist, Kingston, New York state, USA (

    Media watchdog reveals how US television networks are broadcasting pharmaceutical promotions disguised as “news”

    Drug company marketing people are used to having to work quite hard at product promotion, but now there is evidence that some major US television news outlets are giving them a helping hand—by broadcasting “fake news” reports, graciously written and produced by industry.

    The Center for Media and Democracy, a public interest group based in Madison, Wisconsin, that exposes “public relations spin and propaganda,” issued a report last week that tracked the use of 36 video news releases (VNRs) aired by news outlets over the past 10 months ( VNRs are designed to look like independently produced news but they are actually prepackaged promotions containing film footage created by corporate publicists or their public relations firms.

    Diane Farsetta and Daniel Price, authors of the report, studied VNRs and satellite media tours (SMTs provide interviews for news stations) and found that 47 of the 49 sources were companies “that stood to benefit financially from the favorable ‘news’ coverage.” Of the 87 instances of VNR use documented by the centre, only one provided disclosure. That disclosure, however, identified the PR firm but not the corporate sponsor.

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