Crackdown urged on alleged misinformation on US television

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By Hebe Campbell
Chairman Anna Eshoo, D-Calif.. speaks to members of the media after a House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health hearing Thursday, May 14, 2020
Chairman Anna Eshoo, D-Calif.. speaks to members of the media after a House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health hearing Thursday, May 14, 2020   -  Copyright  Shawn Thew/AP

Two Democratic members of the US Congress have urged a dozen cable, satellite, and streaming TV companies to crack down on health and political misinformation.

Jerry McNerney and Anna G. Eshoo sent a letter putting pressure on companies such as Fox News, One America News Network and Newsmax, claiming they have spread misinformation about the coronavirus pandemic and the 2020 US election.

McNerney and Eshoo requested information about the way the named companies address "misinformation, disinformation, conspiracy theories, and lies spread through channels they host".

Fox News defended its reporting and said the duo were demanding "cable distributors engage in viewpoint discrimination" which "sets a terrible precedent".

They accused the networks had been key vectors of spreading misinformation related to the pandemic and directly contributes to a growing distrust of public health measures necessary.

The letter included a study from a media Watchdog that found that Fox News pushed coronavirus misinformation 253 times in just five days in the month of July 2020.

In the letter, they claim that many of these outlets also aired misinformation about the November 2020 elections, and questionable content amid the storming of the United States Capitol in January.

"As a violent mob was breaching the doors of the Capitol, Newsmax’s coverage called the scene a 'sort of a romantic idea',” the letter reads.

This letter comes ahead of Wednesday’s House Energy and Commerce Communications and Technology Subcommittee hearing on traditional media’s role in promoting disinformation and extremism.

“Nearly half of Americans get their news primarily from TV." the letter continues.

“Misinformation on TV has led to our current polluted information environment that radicalizes individuals to commit seditious acts and rejects public health best practices, among other issues in our public discourse.” They went on to write.

Commissioner Brendan Carr, a senior Republican on the FCC called this move from the democrats "a chilling transgression of the free speech rights that every media outlet in this country enjoys".

"By writing letters to the cable providers and other regulated entities that carry these news media outlets, the Democrats are sending a message that is as clear as it is troubling—these regulated entities will pay a price if the targeted newsrooms do not conform to Democrats’ preferred political narratives. " Carr went onto say.

In a statement to Euronews, Fox News said: “As the most-watched cable news channel throughout 2020, FOX News Media provided millions of Americans with in-depth reporting, breaking news coverage and clear opinion. For individual members of Congress to highlight political speech they do not like and demand cable distributors engage in viewpoint discrimination sets a terrible precedent.”