THE BLOG

A TV News Truth Scroll

May 03, 2010 | Updated May 25, 2011

There ought to be a Truth Scroll on the bottom of the screens of TV news and interview shows so that viewers will know how much someone is shading the truth or bending the facts.

The Truth Scroll would be a new product that Google would sell to TV networks because it has the data and the technology to do so.

This isn't my idea. It was first suggested by Head Butler creator and Huffington Post blogger Jesse Kornbluth, but it's time now to be implemented because things have gotten out of hand, as evidenced by recent research.

On February 19, "On the Media" reported on a study conducted by the Nation that found that "many of the talking heads on cable news were found to also be working as paid lobbyists, often with stakes in the issues they're invited on-air to discuss." On the same program it interviewed Terry Holt, a frequent guest on cable news programs. OTM indicates that, "He's a prolific talking head, and, also, frequently lobbies on behalf of health insurance companies. He says that he tells cable news producers about his lobbying work, but whether they disclose that to viewers is up to them."

A Truth Scroll would properly tag these guests with all of their affiliations. For example, the Truth Scroll would indicate that news show guest Tom Ridge is a "former Governor of Pennsylvania, former head of Homeland Security, former advisor to Senator John McCain, and current consultant to several security firms vying for Federal contracts" or "Terry Holt is a Republican operative and insurance company lobbyist who often lobbies against health care reform."

The Truth Scroll would also instantaneously fact check every statement made by news anchors, hosts, and guests. Google's search technology is getting faster and better every day and its voice recognition technology is also improving rapidly. Therefore, Google's smart algorithms should be able to quickly check if Glenn Beck, Bill O'Reilly, Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow, or their guests are factual, and display the facts on the Truth Scroll.

Google would sell the Truth Scroll to cable companies and news-oriented Web sites, and these content providers could then charge people for not using it. Yes, reverse pricing or negative option pricing. The notion is that the Truth Scroll would be free to all viewers, but if people didn't want the truth, they would have to pay to remain ignorant.

Because Fox News has the most viewers by far of any cable news network, this pricing scheme would probably make Fox even richer because most of its viewers are clearly not interested in the truth.

But a Truth Scroll is an idea whose time has come, and it would clearly be a public service. The only problem with it and my pricing scheme is that it would make those who don't tell the truth even richer. But isn't that the way it has always been?