Video News Release (VNR)

Video news release (VNR) is a video segment created by public relations firms, corporations, lobbying groups, or government agencies to present a client’s message through news broadcasting. It is typically a 90 second video, which includes extra bits of audio and video to mimic the tone and visual characteristics of a news story. It is the TV version of the press-release [1].



How It Works

VNRs were previously distributed to news organizations by video cassette. Around the mid 1980’s, VNRs became available through satellite feed. They were more easily attainable, and were thus used more frequently. To produce an effective and interesting VNR, images should be used extensively as long voice-overs can be boring and lose an audience. The narrator-reporter should be kept off camera, as most broadcasting networks do not want to use strange faces in their news segments. Interview segments are also encouraged, as well as b-roll (cover footage). This permits news agents to reformat the VNR if necessary. The use of news producers, news camera crews, news writers and announcers are key. The more a VNR resembles a real news story, the more effective it will be. A third party, such as a credible expert, also helps get the point across. Most VNRs cost their sponsors approximately 10,000 to 25,000 dollars to produce, but they are offered to broadcasting agencies for free in hopes of being aired [2].



VNRs have proven to be a very successful tool to promote a client’s product. Research indicates that 90% of American news agencies use VNRs, and a typical newsroom has approximately 10-15 VNRs to choose from daily. Approximately 4,000 VNRs are produced each month [3]. With the increasing popularity of 24-hour news channels such as CNN, VNRs are recognized as a quick and easy way of attaining information. What was once a very small marketplace, the VNR production industry is now a multi-billion dollar industry [4].



On February 22, 1992, TV Guide published an article entitled Fake News which focuses on the issue that audiences were being tricked into thinking they were viewing real news, when infact they were viewing a segment created with the intention of persuading and informing viewers about a product or position. The biggest issue was that the sponsors of VNRs were not being identified during airtime, and therefore audiences were completely unaware that they were watching paid programming [5]. Studies demonstrate that viewers are more likely to believe VNR-based messaged then similar advertising. For this reason, the VNR sponsor is most likely not in favour of labelling.

In 2005, The Center for Media Democracy examined 77 American television stations that aired a total of 98 VNR broadcasts or related satellite media tour broadcasts. They found that there was only partial disclosure of the source of content in just two of these instances. This study pushed the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to investigate whether or not the use of VNRs were being used contrary to the Communications Act of 1934 [6].

The FCC has published a Public Notice to remind broadcast licensees of the disclosure responsibilities under the Commission’s sponsorship identification rules. These rules state that “listeners and viewers are entitled to know who seeks to persuade them with the programming offered over broadcast stations and cable systems…whenever broadcast stations and cable operators air VNRs, licensees and operators generally must clearly disclose to members of their audiences the nature, source and sponsorship of the material they are viewing”. They conclude this Public Notice warning that violations of the disclosure requirements of Section 507 of the Act will be fined up to 10,000 dollars, imprisonment of not more than a year, or both [7].

The National Association of Broadcast Communicators

In 2006, The National Association of Broadcast Communicators (NABC) was created by 15 public relations firms to ensure the ethical production and distribution of VNRs [8]. The NABC’s mission is to “set standards and guidelines for the professional activities of its member companies and to represent the profession to groups within the broadcast industry, the regulatory community, and the public relations industry” [9]. The NABC created the Code of the National Association of Broadcast Communicators which holds all members accountable for the proper and ethical production of VNRs. If any member does not comply with the Code, their membership will be revoked. The Code is composed of 9 principles which state, among other things, that members must insist on the proper disclosure of sponsorship; that members must respect and comply with the rules of the FCC and the Radio-Television News Directors Association (RTNDA) guidelines; that no monetary or other valuable reward shall ever be offered for the broadcasting of a VNR; and that members are committed to educating the public on the use of VNRs.


  1. ^ Stoff, R. (2006, May). PR’s take on VNRs. St Louis Journalism Review, p.9, ¶ 1
  2. ^ Green, R., & Shapiro, D. (1987-1988). A video news release primer. Public Relations Quarterly, 32(4), ¶ 2
  3. ^ Harmon, M.D., & White, C. (2001). How television news programs use video news releases. Public Relations Review, 27(2), pp.213-222., ¶ 3
  4. ^ Wulfemeyer, K.T., & Frazier, L. (1995). The ethics of video news releases: A qualitative analysis. Journal of Mass Media Ethics, 7(3)., ¶ 4
  5. ^ Harmon, M.D., & White, C. (2001). How television news programs use video news releases. Public Relations Review, 27(2), pp.213-222., ¶ 5
  6. ^ Wood, M. L. M., et al. (2008). Social utility theory: Guiding labelling of VNR’s as ethical and effective public relations. Journal of Public Relations Research, 20(2)., ¶ 6
  7. ^ Federal Communications Commision. (2005, April 13). Public Notice: Commission reminds broadcast licensees, cable operators and others of requirements applicable to video news releases and seeks comment on the use of video news releases by broadcast licensees and cable operators. Retrieved from, ¶ 7
  8. ^ ,¶ 8
  9. ^ ,¶ 9