Video news release

From Academic Kids

Missing image
Public relations person, using ficticious name, appears in U.S. Government Transportation Security Administration video news release on airport security (screenshot)

A video news release (VNR), a term used primarily in the United States, is a public relations or a propaganda technique whereby a video or radio program is produced, edited and distributed to local and national television, radio stations and cable networks (collectively, "media outlets") by PR firms, advertising agencies, marketing firms, corporations, and many U.S. government agencies with the intent to shape public opinion, or to promote and publicize a personality, product or service, or to advocate a particular point of view. While unbounded by recognized standards of journalistic ethics, the most widely used form of VNR is crafted in the style of a news report and used, in whole or in part, primarily, during news and public affairs programs; yet, almost without exception, no mention is made within these programs that the source of a particular story is, in fact, a VNR. A related technique is the satellite media tour.



The typical "news report" style VNR will feature a paid actor playing the role of news correspondent; interviews with experts (who often have legtimate, if biased, expertise); so called "man on the street" interviews with "average" people; and pictures of celebrities, products, service demonstrations, corporate logos and the like, where applicable. In some cases the "man on the street" segments feature persons randomly selected and interviewed spontaneously, in other cases actors hired and directed by VNR producers to deliver carefully scripted comments. In addition, regardless of whether real people or professional actors appear, VNR producers and directors, unlike journalists, have complete discretion to excerpt and edit these "interviews" into short, self-serving 'sound bites' which best fit the particular aim or point of view the VNR makers seek to advocate.

Media outlets often elect to use only portions of a VNR. Frequently the actor playing the part of news correspondent in the original VNR is removed, or "bumped" as it is known in VNR industry trade slang, and one of the media outlet's regular journalists, known to its audience, is substituted. For example, an interview with a leading executive or scientist from a pharamaceutical corporation -- an industry which was one of the early adopters of the VNR technique -- might be inter-cut with on-camera or spoken commentary from the media outlet's usual journalist.

Video News Releases are in wide use in the United States and appear on corporate and publicly owned media outlets.

Business use of VNRs

VNRs have been used extensively in business since at least the early 1980s. Corporations such as Microsoft and Phillip Morris, and the pharamaceutical industry generally, have all made use of the technique.

According to the trade-group Public Releations Society of America, a VNR is the video equivalent of a press release.[1] ( However, John Stauber, an obvserver and critic of the Public Relations business says, "These fellows are whistling past the graveyard, assuring themselves that this all is no big deal. There was no hint of shame, certainly no apologizing, just apparent disdain for having their business practices dissected on the front page of the New York Times. They are proud of their work."

  • "PR Execs Undeterred by Fake News "Flap" Analysis by John Stauber on Wed, 03/16/2005" [2] (

U.S. Government use of VNR

During 2004 a scandal developed over the use of VNRs by the United States government and much debate, media coverage and analysis of the sitution continues.

  • The New York Times, in a story titled "Under Bush, a New Age of Prepackaged TV News" reported, on March 13, 2005, "In all, at least 20 federal agencies, including the Defense Department and the Census Bureau, have made and distributed hundreds of television news segments in the past four years, records and interviews show. Many were subsequently broadcast on local stations across the country without any acknowledgement of the government's role in their production."[3] (
  • In 2004, a controversy with the Bush administration emerged when a VNR financed by the Department of Health and Human Services was aired on a number of local news programs around the country, thinking it was conventional journalism when in fact, it was produced to promote the new Medicare plan. The Karen Ryan video, named so because of the on-screen "reporter," was ruled to be in violation of federal law by the General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of the U.S. government.
  • In October, 2004 it was further revealed that the Department of Education had hired the Ketchum public relations firm to produce a similar video news release using Karen Ryan as a "reporter" touting the No Child Left Behind program of the Bush administration.[4] (
  • A website from the U.S. Census Bureau informs visitors: "U.S. Census Bureau Video News Feeds are available for creation of state-specific news reports. Targeted comments are provided by Census Bureau Redistricting Data Office Chief, Marshall Turner. Companion notification material includes references to websites for the newly released information. Please contact...Homefront Communications for hardcopies on Betacam SP and faxed/email notification copy."[5] (

VNRs and U.S. Law

  • "January 27, 1948: The U.S. Information and Educational Exchange Act of 1948, also known as the Smith-Mundt Act, is passed by Congress and signed into law by U.S. President Harry Truman, placing international overseas information activities, including VOA, under an Office of International Information at the Department of State." [6] (
  • "A BILL To stop taxpayer funded Government propaganda. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE. This Act may be cited as the `Stop Government Propaganda Act'." [7] (

US Commercial Producers of VNRs

A number of public relations firms employ the VNR technique on behalf of their clients; there are a number of commercial production companies who specialize VNR production.

External links

Video and audio links

See also


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