House panel to probe conspiracy theories in the news

House panel to probe conspiracy theories in the news
© Greg Nash

A House panel plans to examine whether traditional media like cable and network news organizations are creating a “tangible and destabilizing threat” to the country by relying on conspiracy theories.

The hearing was prompted by events surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic and the Jan. 6 insurrection, according to two leading congressmen.

The Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Communications and Technology will hear from media experts at 12:30 p.m. ET on Feb. 24 about the role disinformation and extremism plays in the reporting done by broadcast news and cable news organizations.

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“The spread of disinformation and extremism by traditional news media presents a tangible and destabilizing threat,” said Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneLawmakers discussing potential compromise to revive drug pricing measure House Democrats announce bill to rein in tech algorithms House Democrats ramp up probe of FDA approval of Alzheimer's drug MORE (D-N.J.) and the subcommittee Chairman Mike DoyleMichael (Mike) F. DoyleHouse passes bipartisan bills to strengthen network security, cyber literacy Texas Democrat Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson announces retirement at end of term Midterm gloom grows for Democrats MORE (D-Pa.) in a statement announcing the hearing.

“Some broadcasters’ and cable networks’ increasing reliance on conspiracy theories and misleading or patently false information raises questions about their devotion to journalistic integrity,” they added.

On Thursday evening, the subcommittee announced the names of some of the witnesses who will testify at the hearing.
 
The list includes journalist Soledad O’Brien, host of the Hearst Television political magazine program “Matter of Fact with Soledad O’Brien” and also formerly of CNN, MSNBC and NBC, and other outlets; Emily Bell, director of The Tow Center for Digital Media at Columbia University; and Kristin Urquiza, the cofounder of the group Marked By COVID.
 
A subcommittee spokeswoman said additional witnesses will be announced in the coming days.

The communications and technology subcommittee’s jurisdiction includes electronic communications transmitted via broadcasts, cable, and satellite as well as other modes, as well as the Federal Communications Commission.

Updated 7:38 p.m.