US television news outlets sometimes:

  1. interview people who speak a language other than English, then
  2. record a translation over their words.

And most people seem to trust that the translations are accurate. I don't recall ever seeing websites providing the original, unedited recordings of interviews, so there is often no direct means to verify that the translation is accurate; perhaps they sensationalize or bias the translation to suit their narrative.

In the USA, I expect there is some regulatory body (likely the FCC) that checks the accuracy of translations of interviews. I didn't find anything searching for translation at the FCC website, though.

Question: Are there checks and regulations to ensure interview translations on US TV news are accurate?

  • Surely that counts as "broadcasting false content during news programming"? fcc.gov/consumers/guides/broadcasting-false-information
    – Joe C
    Commented Jul 28, 2020 at 17:57
  • I remember watching the MacNeill Lerher report just after the Cod fishery was shut down. They were interviewing a Newfoundland fisherman. They were using subtitles so people who can't understand Newfoundland accents could follow what he was saying. They were not always word for word accurate. At one point he says something which is rendered as 'people not from Newfoundland'. What he actually said was 'people off the rock'.
    – C'est Moi
    Commented Jul 28, 2020 at 19:37

2 Answers 2


Translations should be trusted as much as anything else

There are legal boundaries if a news organization knowingly lies about what a person said, but generally translations are bound by the trust of viewers. If a TV station loses the trust of viewers, it will eventually go bankrupt. Its very hard for the average reader to verify what is reported in the news, and that applies to everything, not just translations. If you're worried about the accuracy of a translation, follow the advice from this site:

How to recognize fake news

  • 6
    The core of this answer, which is not stated outright, is: No, there is no official government body which certifies that translations are accurate, you have to trust the source. Do you agree with that?
    – divibisan
    Commented Jul 28, 2020 at 14:58

No. There is not. There aren't any for untranslated news, either.

Forget political bias, literal fake news is nothing new in US media.

In 1992, NBC rigged vehicles to explode in order to run a "news" story critical of the safety of General Motors pickup trucks:

NBC Admits It Rigged Crash, Settles GM Suit

There was no government-controlled "accuracy" checks there.

In 2004, in the middle of a Presidential campaign, CBS News ran a story that their lawyers literally admitted was fake. Note the subject memo in that "fake news" story is so fake that it exactly matches default Microsoft Word settings:

Bush Guard Documents: Forged

Again - in both those news stories, the news network involved admitted that the story was what could be termed today "fake news".

Print media is not immune, either. Just search for "Jayson Blair", "Janet Cooke", and "Walter Duranty".

Note the organizations involved in these cases are normally deemed among the most reputable news sources around...

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