Is it Pacifica or is it Fox?
lnp3 at panix.com
Sat Sep 8 10:38:33 MDT 2001
Feature Story News: Is it Pacifica or is it Fox?
by Pacifica Reporters Against Censorship, February 2000
Since the Pacifica stringers' strike began on January 31, Pacifica
Network News (PNN) has been increasingly relying on reports from a
corporation called Feature Story News (FSN). During the first three
weeks of the strike, 17.6% of PNN's stories were by FSN
correspondents, as compared to only 6.6% in October 1999.
Based in Washington, D.C. since 1992 and operating news bureaus in
New York, London, Paris, Moscow and Jerusalem, FSN bills itself as
offering "a unique service in the news industry" by providing
"ready-to-air television and radio news material, tailored to
individual on-air styles," according to their web site at
http://www.featurestory.com. Former Pacifica news correspondent Bill
Wax is FSN's Washington news editor.
But are Pacifica listeners receiving the kind of critical news
reporting that they have come to expect from the network? FSN's
reporters also report for mainstream media. Among FSN's more than 50
clients are Voice of America, ABC Radio, Wall Street Journal
Television, Radio Vatican, PBS's "The News Hour with Jim Lehrer," the
British Forces Broadcasting Service, NBC/Mutual, and the Fox News
FSN's relationship with Fox News is particularly close. In October
1999, FSN signed an agreement to serve as Fox's Moscow bureau. Under
the terms of the contract, FSN will "host a Fox News correspondent in
FSN's Moscow bureau and supply Fox with producers, camera crews,
videotape editors, plus editorial and technical support in the
Russian capital. In addition, [FSN chief correspondent Simon] Marks
will continue to serve as an on-air correspondent for Fox News" in
Moscow, according to Businesswire for October 29, 1999. FSN's
corporate income is between $1 and 2.5 million yearly in sales,
according to American Business Disc.
Lest FSN's clients worry about broadcasting the equivalent of spoken
wire copy, FSN's web site assures them that "every story we supply is
different: produced and edited to suit your program's on-air style,
delivered by your deadline, and complete with your sign-off." But how
different can they be? Reporters drawing on mainstream sources and
filing for clients like Voice of America or the Wall Street Journal
do not cultivate alternative sources and cannot provide the kind of
independent, critical reporting that Pacifica listeners expect.
Purchasers of FSN's services do not have full editorial control over
FSN's reporters. The company's web site informs potential clients
that "time-permitting, you will receive a script of your story in
One PNN freelancer witnessed this scene while on location at the WTO
in Seattle: "FSN reporters filed 'customized' stories in the
following fashion. They would read a script over the phone line or
ISDN, play their interview cuts and then sign out several times with
their name and different IDs, like NPR News, Voice of America, ABC
Radio. It was obvious those tags would be just be appended to the
standard report during the production process back at the FSN studio.
I have no way of knowing if that was their usual way of operating,
but it would make sense given the incredible pressure of actually
producing a number of customized stories every day."
Pacifica Network News has long used FSN correspondents occasionally,
when it didn't have a reporter on location and needed a taped report.
But the overwhelming increase in the use of FSN during the current
crisis is part of a disturbing trend -- which began before the
current freelancers' strike -- toward canned news and analysis from
Pacifica Network News. Since November 1, when Mark Bevis took over
PNN editorial duties after Pacifica management removed Dan Coughlin
as news director, the number of FSN reports on PNN's air has steadily
increased (November's PNN casts were 16.2% FSN stories; December's
were 18.1%, and January's were 24%).
By increasingly contracting out its news reporting to FSN, Pacifica
Network News is losing its very reason for being: providing
independent reports from around the world, which draw on unique news
sources rooted in movements for social change.
Louis Proyect, lnp3 at panix.com on 09/08/2001
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