Lobbyists Treated as Analysts on TV News

Wednesday, March 03, 2010
Tom Ridge on The Daily Show

When experts appear on any of the myriad news channels, the question not being asked is: “Who do they work for?” Increasingly, the talking heads offering their take on important political or economic matters have their own financial stakes at risk, but don’t bother to disclose this fact. Networks simply don’t require them to do so, allowing serious conflicts-of-interest to skew public debates on key issues affecting the country.

For instance, former Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge appeared on MSNBC in December to offer a Republican counterpoint to President Barack Obama’s economic plans. Ridge went on to laud the value of building new nuclear power plants to promote the president’s “green agenda”—but without telling his audience that he serves on the board of the nation’s largest nuclear power company, Exelon. According to The Nation, Ridge has earned $530,659 since 2005 in executive compensation from Exelon.
On the same day Ridge appeared on MSNBC, retired general and “NBC Military Analyst” Barry McCaffrey talked about America staying committed to the war in Afghanistan. Again, the expert opinion was offered by someone who sits on a corporate board, this time for DynCorp, a security contractor making billions off the conflict.
The Nation found after conducting a four-month investigation that 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.”
-Noel Brinkerhoff
The Media-Lobbying Complex (by Sebastian Jones, The Nation)


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