How the FDA Controls the Media

How the FDA Controls the Media
manipulation of the media
… through the use of the close-hold embargo, the FDA gets journalists to report only what they tell them, without outside commentary or analysis.

Embargoes have been used in journalism since the 1920s. It’s a deal between journalists and their sources, which gives the journalist access to a story on the condition that it’s not published before a certain date and time. Some institutions, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), further control media coverage by offering briefings to only a small selection of reporters. In January 2011, however, the FDA took this control to a whole new level with the use of a close-hold embargo.

The FDA allowed reporters early access to information about new medical device rules but, in addition to the regular embargo requirements, told reporters they could not seek comments from outside sources before the embargo expired.

Vincent Kiernan, PhD, a science journalist and dean at George Mason University, told Scientific American:1

[When] you can’t verify the information, you can’t get comment on the information. You have to just keep it among this group of people that I told you about, and you can’t use it elsewhere. In that situation, the journalist is allowing his or her reporting hands to be tied in a way that they’re not going to be anything, ultimately, other than a stenographer.

In other words, through the use of the close-hold embargo, the FDA gets journalists to report only what they tell them, without outside commentary or analysis.

News of the close-hold embargo triggered backlash, including from the Association of Health Care Journalists (AHCJ), which prompted the FDA to backtrack and change its tune, according to a media policy they released in June 2011—at least on paper.

In reality, the use of close-hold embargoes has continued among the FDA and other institutions. According to Scientific American:1

The FDA, too, quietly held close-hold embargoed briefings, even though its official media policy forbids it. Without a source willing to talk, it is impossible to tell for sure when or why FDA started violating its own rules.

In January 2014, however, it’s known that the FDA used a “strict, close-hold embargo” prior to their launch of a new public health ad campaign. Again in April 2014, the FDA forbid journalists to contact third parties regarding new e-cigarette rules set to be released until after the embargo expired.

The resulting stories stayed on task in delivering the FDA’s message with little analysis or critical coverage, but one piece, published in The New York Times, gave the close-hold embargo away by stating:1

FDA officials gave journalists an outline of the new rules on Wednesday but required that they not talk to industry or public health groups until after Thursday’s formal release of the document.

The FDA was not happy that their secret had been shared, nor were the news outlets that had been excluded from the early briefing.

To date, few news outlets have pushed back against the FDA’s favoritism to certain media outlets or their restrictive rules regarding reporting. Scientific American continued:1

No matter how rare it might be, there is documentary evidence of its happening multiple times, and each instance since 2011 is a violation of the FDA’s official media policy, which explicitly bans close-hold embargoes. This policy still stands, just as it did before the last close-hold embargo. The smart money says that the agency’s unofficial policy still stands, too—and the favoritism and close-hold embargoes continue. It is apparently too sweet an arrangement for the FDA simply to walk away.

Note: This article was excerpted from the article “FDA Is Pharma’s Lapdog, Not a Watchdog” with the author’s permission. It was originally published on Dr. Mercola’s website at


1 Seife C. How the FDA Manipulates the Media. Scientific America October 2016.

One Response to "How the FDA Controls the Media"

  1. danyelle robinson   October 13, 2016 at 8:09 pm

    Great article. As a retired journalist this story is mind-boggling. Medical IMPLANT devices relate to vaccines via the ASIA (auto-immune syndrome induced by adjuvants – vaccines and implant devices are both adjuvants). The genetic predisposition that gave three of my children seizures – one ending in death – is the same gene that predisposed me to react to my mesh implant. Not that any predisposition is needed when it comes to implants which create biofilm 100 percent of the time. We are creating the next wave of plague via these gram-negative, CRE contaminants inherent with implants. And although the FDA has known this since 2014, no warning has as yet been added to the informed consent PRIOR to implantation. (When the same contaminants were found in New Dehli in 2009, CDC called them a “nightmare.”) What other industry can infect EVERY customer with a deadly bacteria and fungi, elusive to culturing, and impenetrable to antibiotics, then create a $350 billion industry to treat — without curing — the deadly infections they caused? (sterling silver implants are immune but this metal is rarely used because of it’s rigidity; other precious metals are too soft.)


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