FOIA request regarding VNRs turned down by FCC


FCCThe Center for Media and Democracy wants to see documents on the FCC’s investigation into possible improper use by television broadcasters of video news releases, otherwise known as VNRs. The FCC has refused, with one narrow exception. The reason:

The VNRs themselves and associated documents are part of investigations.

The FCC Enforcement Bureau said, “(1) disclosure would hinder the agency’s ability to control or shape its investigations; (2) disclosure would enable persons or entities with relevant information to destroy or alter evidence; and (3) disclosure would reveal evidence or strategy in the investigation.”

CMD argued that many if not most of the cases it is interested, which involve 42 owners and 77 individual television stations, should be decided by now, and that it is impossible to harm an investigation that has been concluded.

The FCC said that it was still within its rights, since targets of pending investigations could use the information revealed about closed investigations to take evasive action.

The narrow exception identified by the FCC was investigations which were not only closed but were also subject of a publicly-released enforcement order. There were three of these, involving Fox Television, Comcast Cable and Access.1 New Jersey License Company. VNRs implicated in those proceedings are being released to CMD.