The FCC has begun an investigation into the television broadcast of fake news stories. To be determined is whether TV stations violated rules that require them to tell viewers the source of video news releases.
The FCC investigation, first reported by Bloomberg News, follows the revelation in April by two advocacy groups that 77 television stations actively disguised sponsored content from companies including General Motors, Intel, Pfizer and Capital One to make it look like their own reporting. More than one-third of the time, stations aired fake news stories in their entirety as their own reporting, the groups charged.
The maximum fine for each violation is $32,500, rising to $325,000 for multiple infractions, FCC spokesman Clyde Ensslin told Bloomberg. He would not discuss the investigation, which has not been publicly announced by the commission.
The Center for Media Democracy (CMD) and Free Press exposed what it termed “an epidemic” of fake news infiltrating local television broadcasts across the country.
Calling the findings “stunning in their scope,” FCC commissioner Jonathan Adelstein then called on the commission to immediately open investigations of television stations named in the report.
Adelstein said the stations that violated FCC rules should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. “If we uncover evidence of possible criminal violations, we should refer them to the FBI and the Justice Department,” he said.
If the FCC determines that a licensee has violated the law, the commission can initiate license revocation proceedings, as well as fines. In addition, Adelstein noted that the failure to disclose is a crime can carry a penalty of up to $10,000, and as much as one year imprisonment.