July 19, 2004
8:53 PM   Subscribe

"The Federal Trade Commission and Congress must act to prevent Fox News from using the deceptive and misleading trademark 'Fair and Balanced.'" After yesterday's 2,700 viewing parties and a Doonsbury plug, Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism is now the #1 selling DVD on Amazon. At the same time, MoveOn launches a campaign against the slogan, and AlterNet challenges Fox's trademark. (Previous discussion.)
posted by muckster (64 comments total)
 
What next? A movement to remove "self-policing since 1999" as false advertising?
posted by rushmc at 9:11 PM on July 19, 2004


This is a start, but it's not the trademark that's important--it's the lies and omissions and slanted way they report (or don't report) on things that counts.
posted by amberglow at 9:11 PM on July 19, 2004


Has anyone seen a BitTorrent for the movie yet?
posted by wfrgms at 9:17 PM on July 19, 2004


omissions and slanted way they report (or don't report) on things that counts.

Don't get me wrong, I hate FOX and all, but--doesn't that describe most news agencies?
posted by dhoyt at 9:35 PM on July 19, 2004


I hate FOX news and everything it stands for, but I think it is exactly what the other mainstream media outlets deserve. FOX's catchphrase is an unintentional parody of ABC/The New York Times/etc.'s pretence of objectivity.

The answer to "Fair and Balanced" is not a pedantic "Look! I've proven they're really biased toward Republicans!" but a more thoughtful explanation that there is no such thing as an objective news source.

Better questions include: Who do you trust to do good reporting on a given topic? Who shares your values regarding what is/isn't important news? Who raises compelling challenges to your current opinions? Who tells you stuff you wouldn't have known otherwise that turns out to be important? Who tells you stuff that, on further inquiry, turns out to be bullshit?
posted by straight at 9:36 PM on July 19, 2004


What next, moveon goes after 7up for using the tagline "crisp and clean and no caffeine"? Sure, it doesn't have caffeine, but it's hardly "clean" with all that sugar in there, and if warm it falls well short of "crisp".
posted by tomplus2 at 9:40 PM on July 19, 2004


The answer to "Fair and Balanced" is not a pedantic "Look! I've proven they're really biased toward Republicans!" but a more thoughtful explanation that there is no such thing as an objective news source.

False dilemma. We should do both.

The navel-gazing is productive in the long run, but in the meantime Fox needs to know in no uncertain terms that they can't expect to be taken seriously when they persist with crap like "Fair and Balanced."
posted by soyjoy at 9:41 PM on July 19, 2004


I lost respect for MoveOn when they dubbed The Day After Tommorrow as "The Film the White House Doesn't Want you to See!!!". That really demonstrated a sub-NewsMax level of journalism.

And it's hard to criticize Fox News for similar alarmist BS because it would just be beating a dead horse.
posted by dhoyt at 9:45 PM on July 19, 2004


Fox "can't expect to be taken seriously" by whom, exactly, that would be of any concern to them? They couldn't care less what MoveOn supporters think. They are taken all too seriously by their viewers. This is a cute publicity stunt, but nothing more.
posted by twsf at 9:46 PM on July 19, 2004


Don't get me wrong, I hate FOX and all, but--doesn't that describe most news agencies?

That's a good point, but most news agencies don't only slant one way (as Fox does with Republicans/Bush), unless it's toward corporate owners and/or advertisers (see: NBC/GE, etc....). And that daily memo is all the proof anyone needs to see how they always play every story (or downplay them) to make the administration look good.
posted by amberglow at 9:47 PM on July 19, 2004


they're in trouble in the UK too: ...recently chastised Fox News and found it in violation of various regulations in that country aimed at preventing the media from deliberately spreading misinformation. Ofcom found that Fox News anchor John Gibson made "false statements by undermining facts."
posted by amberglow at 9:53 PM on July 19, 2004


It's a good thing the LA Times is on the same side as the thought police.
posted by Mick at 9:58 PM on July 19, 2004


If the trademark is revoked (or is it dismissed?) would it not most likely be so on the grounds that fair and balanced™ was and is a common expression rather than on whether or not FNC itself is fair and balanced™? And even if dismissed, FNC could continue to use it but just lose the power to prevent others from using it as well.

It would be wonderful if the marketing angle or strategy used by any company or organization, news, corporate, or otherwise, was actually held accountable to claims made. But outside of spec sheets, aren't many slogans or expressions based on the belief and/or interpretation of those who expouse them and those who endorse them? BMW, the Ultimate Driving Machine. Really? CNN, The Most Trusted Name In News. Really? Does anyone truly take such marketing drivel seriously? If such things are contested in court where would the line be drawn?

On another note, as Outfoxed increases in popularity is Robert Greenwald's physical disposition, of which I've no idea about, going to be used as an argument against him?

Is anyone at MoveOn or AlterNet "big"? Because, you know, if anyone is, it'll be brought up as proof that their concerns are groundless and their supporters are simpletons.

Or can we hope that such nonsense won't occur?
posted by juiceCake at 10:02 PM on July 19, 2004


but most news agencies don't only slant one way (as Fox does with Republicans/Bush), ..... to make the administration look good.

If Fox News Corp felt they'd get a better deal out of a Democratic or Libertarian administration/congress FNNC would 'drop' the Republicans and support the others.

This isn't about 'supporting Republicans' as it is supporting the people who work the levers of power to get what they want.
posted by rough ashlar at 10:18 PM on July 19, 2004


I lost respect for MoveOn when they dubbed The Day After Tommorrow as "The Film the White House Doesn't Want you to See!!!"

MoveOn is not a journalistic enterprise. They are an explicitly partisan enterprise, not to mention, until a year or two ago, an organization run by a guy with a web server. Why would you have "lost respect" for MoveOn when they publicized Republican faux-outrage at The Day After Tomorrow?
posted by deanc at 10:24 PM on July 19, 2004


Because they didn't just publicize outrage, they urged people to go see the film as if it were a hard hitting, authoritiative and scientifically-accurate piece of environmental research rather than a big-budget disaster film. If I took a class on on the prehistoric era and the professor urged that I go watch a bunch of Land of the Lost episodes to get the gist, I'd probably cancel my tuition check.

(For the record, "lost respect" was not entirely meant to be literal)
posted by dhoyt at 10:45 PM on July 19, 2004


and here I was going to cancel my check because they left out any mention of Sleestaks in the fossil record...
posted by bashos_frog at 11:39 PM on July 19, 2004


Surely someone should tell MoveOn "don't feed the trolls"
posted by fullerine at 12:28 AM on July 20, 2004


Deconstructing Bill O'Reilly
posted by mr.marx at 12:36 AM on July 20, 2004


Great clip mr. marx - is it from Outfoxed?
posted by bashos_frog at 12:58 AM on July 20, 2004


Yup.
posted by mr.marx at 1:29 AM on July 20, 2004


Another clip here.
posted by mr.marx at 1:37 AM on July 20, 2004


"It’s unfair, it’s slanted and it’s a hit job," he added. "And I haven’t even seen it yet."
-Eric Shawn, FOX News Reporter



I'm sure he said this completely unaware of the irony.

FOX news ethics. Priceless
posted by sic at 1:40 AM on July 20, 2004


And it's hard to criticize Fox News for similar alarmist BS because it would just be beating a dead horse.

No, I disagree.

Putting aside for a moment the false comparison between the two organizations that Deanc already pointed out, I think that the rest of your comment also doesn't stand up to scrutiny: First of all FOX makes it very easy to criticize their integrity, or lack thereof, because it is blatant and never ending. Secondly, this is no "dead horse" if I'm not mistaken they are number 1 in the ratings? Unfortunately this horse is alive and kicking and needs to be beaten much much more.

!
posted by sic at 1:56 AM on July 20, 2004


If there are any ethics involved in the use of trademarks - ie. they can't be misleading or untrue - then Fox has to lose it.

Personally, though, I quite like the entirely inappropriate use of the term as its trademark. It's an obvious encapsulation of all that they stand for: brazen deceit.

The fact that there are people out there who actually believe that it's fair and balanced, and may have that delusion re-enforced by the constant use of the (legitimising) trademark is why it has to go. And that it's a lie.
posted by Blue Stone at 2:51 AM on July 20, 2004


This isn't really a trademark issue. It is a deceptive practices issue.

Fair & Balanced™ implies that the content you are watching is, well fair and balanced. Fox throws the term around several times an hour and O'Reilly uses the line when making pure opinions.

If the NY Times had "fair and balanced" on almost every page --including the editorial page-- I'd feel the same way.

I'm not against Fox New's right to exist, but if you make a claim you are fair and balanced, you should go out of your way to be fair and balanced.

My favorite section of the documentary is the "some people say" part as a tool to get opinions (often times the RNC talking point of the day) into discussions.
posted by birdherder at 3:06 AM on July 20, 2004


It's a good thing the LA Times is on the same side as the thought police.

This isn't even worth responding to, but it occurred to me that a "daily memo" would be a very 'thought-police' thing to do.
posted by Space Coyote at 3:55 AM on July 20, 2004


What a load of crap. And the "progressives" wonder why they are often portrayed as wild-eyed and shrill. FNC is at least as "fair & balanced" -- more so, IMO -- than any other news organization.
posted by davidmsc at 4:34 AM on July 20, 2004


FNC is at least as "fair & balanced" ... than (sic) any other news organization

Please tell me that's a joke.
posted by daveg at 4:41 AM on July 20, 2004


What a load of crap. And the "progressives" wonder why they are often portrayed as wild-eyed and shrill.

I missed that. What channel was that- oh, right.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 4:42 AM on July 20, 2004


Fox's tilt to the right is obviously an attempt to fill a need in the marketplace that is not being addressed by the other major news networks. I don't understand why the radical left feels the need to either discredit or silence Fox, especially when there are so many other sources for news out there. Nobody forces you to watch Fox, just as no one forces me to watch a Michael Moore movie. If you don't like it, turn it off.
posted by Durwood at 4:54 AM on July 20, 2004


As davidmsc aptly demonstrates the "some people say.." disinformation mechanism. What a tool.

As for Durwood, "everybody to the left of Dick Cheney" is not merely "the far left". Also, Fox Television fills a need in the market for garbage reality TV, Fox News fills a spot in the market for mean-spirited white male dopes to feel like they're being attacked, and they go for it.

The market has a place for lots of things, but lying about what you're showing is the problem.
posted by Space Coyote at 5:05 AM on July 20, 2004


You really are overstating the situation Durwood. Radical Left? Silence FOX news? Noone has argued that FOX needs to be silenced and obviously from a market perspective, FOX and right wing talk radio fill a consumer desire, but once upon a time there was something called journalistic ethics, which, granted, have largely dissappeared from the US journalism profession over the last 25 years or so, but even so, FOX is probably the most glaring example of this decline in journalistic ethics. Why? Because it insists that it is Fair and Balanced while serving as the mouthpiece for the GOP and for the Bush adminstration. This documentary seeks to expose FOX as the ultimate expression of this slow slide away from objectivity and toward a news reporting style that is not merely to "report the news" but rather to promote a very specific agenda without ever coming clean about it. In essence, it is as if the Op Ed section had taken over all other parts of the organization. There is no "liberal" or "radical left" equivalent of FOX News. It can be argued that Air America is that left version of Rush Limbaugh and company. But who are you going to hold up as the mouthpiece for the Democratic Party? CNN? NY Times? Washington Post? They, like the rest of the media have lost the majority of their credibility, but not because they are "radical leftists" supporting a Democratic agenda. But rather, because they are also chasing that market share and forgetting all about that word, ethics.
posted by sic at 5:20 AM on July 20, 2004


what sic said. FOX is exactly an op-ed page masquerading as a serious journalistic enterprise (much like Murdoch's other properties).
posted by amberglow at 5:50 AM on July 20, 2004


Please cite a single instance of bias in the way FOX reports the news. There is none.

It's the skewed lefty news-editorializing of the other alphabet news networks that's shameful and repugnant.
posted by hama7 at 6:09 AM on July 20, 2004


NYT Review of Outfoxed
posted by muckster at 6:15 AM on July 20, 2004


Bias.
posted by hama7 at 6:18 AM on July 20, 2004


High Bias - Orson Scott Card
posted by hama7 at 6:20 AM on July 20, 2004


Hama7, when I've watched Fox I've found it focuses excessively on promoting right wing viewpoints and diminishing any differing views. You could say the converse about CBS or NYT, but it is the scale of it on Fox which is unusual in my opinion. Also, can I just say that as an Australian watching Fox News, it is a sometimes bewildering experience! The people seem so vitriolic and, well, just strangely antagonistic. I don't think politics American-style translate well at all over here, but Fox just steps up the weirdness for me...
posted by Onanist at 6:31 AM on July 20, 2004


Don't feed it. Please.
posted by mr.marx at 6:34 AM on July 20, 2004


Fox's tilt to the right is obviously an attempt to fill a need in the marketplace that is not being addressed by the other major news networks.

It's news, Durwood. Your argument is that Fox is "filling the need" for right-wingers who want the news to deliberately skew in a way they like.

If you think the news should be reported in any way other than "truthfully," you've got a bigger problem than your choice of networks.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 7:04 AM on July 20, 2004


If the trademark is revoked (or is it dismissed?) would it not most likely be so on the grounds that fair and balanced™ was and is a common expression rather than on whether or not FNC itself is fair and balanced™?

This isn't really a trademark issue. It is a deceptive practices issue.

There might be a rather clever strategy at play here: frame the issue as one of truth in advertising in press releases about the lawsuit, but use a legal strategy that includes a challenge to the phrase's appropriateness as a slogan. From one of the articles listed above, we have the judge from the attempted lawsuit against Franken saying, "From a legal point of view. I think it is highly unlikely that the phrase 'fair and balanced' is a valid trademark. I can't accept that that phrase can be plucked out of the marketplace of ideas and slogans."

Also, if I may borrow from the previous thread, you may wish to check out the Fox BGH suit (thank mrgrimm), as well as this study, particularly the section on "Variations in Misperceptions According to Source of News". Also, jgilliam posted 33 memos to Outfoxed's website that do a pretty good job documenting bias in Fox's newsroom. They were taken down, but crunchland found them on Wonkette. See also Salon's interview with Charlie Riena.

It's the skewed lefty news-editorializing of the other alphabet news networks that's shameful and repugnant.

You have to go to Ireland if you want to find a reporter willing to call the president into account for the failures of this administration. Perhaps our reporters are too busy writing down their pre-scripted questions.
posted by alphanerd at 7:10 AM on July 20, 2004


Don't feed it. Please.

Can't I at least tap on the glass?
posted by Onanist at 7:14 AM on July 20, 2004


all one need do is take in a local FOX affiliate's local "news", which regularly feature segments reporting on new FOX sitcoms, humilitainment, and "television events" to see what FOX is.
posted by quonsar at 7:36 AM on July 20, 2004


I don't know why the left wants to play the censorship game -- it always loses. They'd be far better off returning to a principled standpoint of the more free speech, the better.

For every $100 million in Fahrenehit 9/11 box office, you get $300 million in Passion of the Christ box office. For a 24-hour-annoyance media stunt like a deceptive trade practice claim against Fox (more likely to get MoveOn's lawyers sanctioned for frivolous pleadings, if actually submitted, than to result in any restraint on Fox), you get Whoopi Goldberg losing a multi-million-dollar endorsement contract, which will have a big chilling effect upon celebrities, who value their own pocketbooks far more than any political cause.
posted by MattD at 8:23 AM on July 20, 2004


Please cite a single instance of bias in the way FOX reports the news. There is none.

Are you talking about just the news, or including debate-style shows like O'Reilly, Hannity and Colmes and the like? I was watching Fox News last week and actually found myself thinking how even-handed a segment on the O'Reilly Factor was up until the end, when what seemed like a token contradiction was thrown in.

Is anyone else really creeped out by Bill O'Reilly's insistence on not only calling Al Franken "Stuart Smalley," but mentioning him about ten times per episode?
posted by mikeh at 8:37 AM on July 20, 2004


Are you talking about just the news

"Reports the news" is the exact quote I used, so yes, just the news.

Not the debate shows or the commentary programs, which, even with the admitted editorial perspective, are immeasurably more fair and balanced toward differing viewpoints than any of the other lockstep-to-the-gulag networks.
posted by hama7 at 9:09 AM on July 20, 2004


Unfortunately in this country, most people don't want actual news... where an event is reported on with no slant or bias, and you have to decide for yourself what it means... positive or negative.

People are lazy, they don't want to have to think, or figure out HARD things like whether or not the war was justified, or if the president is doing a good job.

So, they watch Fox News, which presents everything in a way so that they get the comfortable feeling that everything they think they know is right.

"Fox News helps me shut out the bad thoughts, so I can sleep at night... happy and contented that my conservative view of the world is dead on. Thanks, Fox News!"
posted by BobFrapples at 9:16 AM on July 20, 2004


Please cite a single instance of bias in the way FOX reports the news. There is none.

What about the much-reported incident where they used their crawl to broadcast juvenile insults about war protesters? That's unjustifiable in a professional news reporting agency right there, case closed, and in a sane world would have been sufficient to cause them to lose their license to broadcast on public spectrum—or at least have resulted in a substantial and significant fine.

The answer to "Fair and Balanced" is not a pedantic "Look! I've proven they're really biased toward Republicans!" but a more thoughtful explanation that there is no such thing as an objective news source.

While it may well be the case that it is impossible to achieve perfect objectivity (in anything), it is certainly is possible—and desirable—to strive for some semblance of it. Which do we want, information ("news") presented to us filtered by some ideological bias and agenda, specifically designed to make us think a certain way, or a presentation of the facts, a detailing of what occurs, with some background that allows us to appreciate things within the context in which they occur?

I can't see throwing out the baby with the bathwater and saying "objectivity is impossible, therefore what Fox does is perfectly acceptable." While the news has always had some biases, it's a question of degree...and intent.
posted by rushmc at 9:19 AM on July 20, 2004


rushmc: There is something to be said here for both caveat emptor and the marketplace of ideas. There was something to be said for the possibility that if you didn't like what Franklin was publishing, you could go down the street to see what the local Tory was publishing.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:23 AM on July 20, 2004


There IS something to be said for those ideas, Kirk, I agree. However, broadcast spectrum does not provide the unlimited opportunity for access and expression that printing presses (or the internet) do, and therefore it seems obvious that some regulation to prevent monopolization and abuse is needed. If the public believes that the purpose of broadcast news is to provide authentic, verifiable reports of what occurs in the world, then the companies given the opportunity to provide this service should be held accountable to certain standards of truth and accuracy.

As strange a notion as it might at first seem, lies in print are not equal to lies on television and radio.
posted by rushmc at 10:38 AM on July 20, 2004


in a sane world would have been sufficient to cause them to lose their license to broadcast on public spectrum

Last time I checked, Fox News was a cable channel.

Just remember, folks, if you support prohibiting Fox News from calling itself fair and balanced, then you implicitly make the case for laws like this one.

It's amazing how many people imagine that setting a precedent of censorship against their opponents could never ever be used to censor them.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 11:50 AM on July 20, 2004


It's not censorship to not allow fox to misrepresent themselves. Censorship would be not allowing them to broadcast at all.

As for hama7's trolling, the problem is the mixing of commentary and news reporting (not giving obvious indications of such transitions, and often having the anchor people deliver commentary), as well as the daily memos saying which stories to bury and how to frame others. Really, you can stick your fingers in your ears and claim ignorance of their actual, documented practices all you want, but you won't be convincing anyone.
posted by Space Coyote at 12:36 PM on July 20, 2004


Last time I checked, Fox News was a cable channel.

Case closed.
posted by hama7 at 1:47 PM on July 20, 2004


It's not censorship to not allow fox to misrepresent themselves. Censorship would be not allowing them to broadcast at all.

"It's not censorship if we're only permitting you to say what we tell you to say. Censorship would be if we didn't allow you to say anything at all," huh? That's a definition of "censorship" I was previously unfamiliar with.

But let's say, for the sake of argument, it's not censorship. So what? If you set the precedent that Fox News is not permitted to market itself as "fair and balanced," just because it isn't fair and balanced, then every time your political enemies perceive that you are misrepresenting yourself--regardless of whether you are or not--they will attempt to use the precedent to shut you down. If conservatives believe that, say, ABC News is misrepresenting facts, they will have ABC News in court every day, in order to "force ABC to tell the true story." Now, maybe ABC wasn't misrepresenting the facts, and maybe they'd win their court case. Maybe. And even if they did, they still have the hassle of defending every single news story they broadcast in court.

That's not a society I care to live in. If the choice is between that or allowing Fox News to call itself "Fair and Balanced," I'll choose the latter in a heartbeat.

But you apparently don't agree, and would support laws such as the one referred to in the article linked in my previous comment.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 2:05 PM on July 20, 2004


I honestly didn't think there was anyone on Metafilter who could say with a straight face that fox news is unbiased in it's reporting of the news.

a new surprise every day, i guess.

*taps on glass*

*places timed mine*

*runs away*
posted by lazaruslong at 9:54 PM on July 20, 2004


Let me guess hama, the concerns raised by OFCOM are just mere semantics.
posted by johnnyboy at 3:50 AM on July 21, 2004


What a waste of time for MoveOn and Alternet.

Fox news has a point of view. OLD FUCKING NEWS!
posted by john at 4:34 AM on July 21, 2004


Like the onanist, as an Australian, I am slightly physically repulssed by Fox News when I've caught it on cable. It's not the way news should be, and certainly not the way I'm used to it, whether I watch the ABC or Channel 9. It's the way parodys-of-news shows should be.

It's vicious. It's nasty. It's rarely reporting "this is what happened", it's usually reporting "this is what we think of what happened". People in this thread who see Fox News as the lone "right-wing" media voice in a world of Trotsky-loving commie media sources must live in sad, isolated little worlds indeed. Fox isn't to be dissed because it's "right-wing" (right-wing news has a place alongside every other sort of news - news is naturally biased, so it's a matter of sampling diverse sources), it's to be dissed because, quite frankly, it isn't very smart journalism. It's the easy, comfortable way out. If you honestly rely on Fox News for your daily update of what's happening, then there's no question as to why you have a slightly muddled understanding of the world.

In terms of the trademark, Fox should have the right to use it. And so should everyone else. Maybe if every newspaper, TV channel and, hell, weblog had "Fair and Balanced" printed on it, they might take the hint.
posted by Jimbob at 6:25 AM on July 21, 2004


'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean--neither more or less.'

'The question is,' said Alice, 'whether you can make words mean different things.'

'The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'which is to be master--that's all.'

posted by rushmc at 8:05 AM on July 21, 2004


I managed to snag OutFoxed off BitTorrent. I can't host it, though, what with being on a laptop that's not full-time net connected.

I will, however, keep it in my BT queue for the next month or so.

The film is amazing. I would really like to see a similar treatment for Canada's CBC and CTV/Global networks.

The scary thing about Fox News is that a good portion of their 24hr play consists of talk show hosts masquerading as news anchors/reporters. There is a seamless blend of actual news items and op-ed, which rather puts lie to "We report, you decide."

If Fox is how most of America gets its information, America is in deep, deep shit.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:36 AM on July 25, 2004


I've finally seen Outfoxed--here's a review. To paraphrase it, the film does very well at analyzing Fox's tactics, but I felt that it failed to make a cohesive counter-argument to hama7's point: if you don't like Fox News, why not just switch channels?
posted by muckster at 12:52 PM on July 28, 2004


Change channels to what, though? In my neck of the woods, most of my available media options are owned by a single company: CanWest Global Communications, which is (was) headed by a social conservative who pulled no bones about his expectations for news content.

I have these options:
  • CTV national news, owned by Global.
  • BCTV provincial news, owned by Global.
  • CHBC local news, owned by Global.
  • CBC national news, federally funded.
  • Vancouver Sun newspaper, owned by Global.
  • The Province newspaper, owned by Global.
  • The Morningstar local newspaper, which carries no non-local news.

    Izzy Asper, the guy who ran Global until last September when he kicked the bucket, was a far-right-wing loon who saw anti-semitism everywhere. To quote Izzy directly: "[O]n national and international key issues we should have one, not 14, editorial positions."

    In short, I can't change the channel: it is all the same channel.


  • it appears the link goes to someone who might also be a loon; nonetheless, the facts about Izzy are facts.
    posted by five fresh fish at 3:30 PM on July 28, 2004


    I don't disagree, fff, but I don't think Outfoxed quite succeeds at making its case. It could have, and I wish it did.
    posted by muckster at 9:12 AM on August 2, 2004


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