Tell Cable News: No More PR Pundits

Channels disguise corporate propaganda as ‘analysis’

NEW YORK–(ENEWSPF)– Scores of pundits appearing on cable news networks are paid corporate lobbyists and PR flaks–and the networks aren’t disclosing their corporate ties. In a new report in the Nation (3/1/10), reporter Sebastian Jones writes:

Since 2007 at least 75 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.

For example, during the collapse of insurance giant AIG–and the ensuing government bailout–some pundits appearing to discuss the story were, unbeknown to viewers, actually working for AIG, as lobbyists or public relations advisers. And as the healthcare debate unfolded throughout the past year, a number of pundits and former lawmakers have made numerous appearances to talk about health insurance reform–all the while employed by insurance and pharmaceutical companies. In almost all cases, viewers had no way of knowing the affiliations of these guests. The allegedly liberal-leaning MSNBC, writes Jones, had

the most egregious instances of airing guests with conflicts of interest. Only on MSNBC did Todd Boulanger, a Jack Abramoff-connected lobbyist working for Cassidy and Associates, go on a TV rehabilitation tour with no identification of his work, all while he was under investigation for corruption. (He pleaded guilty in January 2009.) Only on MSNBC was a prime-time program, Countdown, hosted by public relations operative Richard Wolffe and later by a pharmaceutical company consultant, former Gov. Howard Dean, with no mention of the outside work either man was engaged in. And MSNBC has yet to introduce DynCorp’s Barry McCaffrey as anything but a "military analyst."

Some networks have written policies demanding that contributors and analysts reveal their conflicts of interest. But it’s hard to take those guidelines very seriously; as Jones points out, one MSNBC official suggested that their idea of disclosure might be to post relevant information about their guests on the MSNBC website. In a media system already dominated by official sources from government and big business, why are cable channels relying on paid spokespeople and lobbyists as commentators? And why are these channels hiding the affiliations of their pundits? Join FAIR to demand answers and accountability. Sign our petition to MSNBC, Fox News, CNN, CNBC and Fox Business Channel, demanding that they come clean about their corporate-sponsored pundits.

Click here to sign FAIR’s petition.

FAIR, the national media watch group, has been offering well-documented criticism of media bias and censorship since 1986. We work to invigorate the First Amendment by advocating for greater diversity in the press and by scrutinizing media practices that marginalize public interest, minority and dissenting viewpoints.