Saturday, February 19, 2005
Courtesy of Zemblan patriot M.F.: Which is more frivolous -- frivolous asbestos suits, or frivolous regulation of government propaganda?
The comptroller general has issued a blanket warning that reminds federal agencies they may not produce newscasts promoting administration policies without clearly stating that the government itself is the source.
Twice in the last two years, agencies of the federal government have been caught distributing prepackaged television programs that used paid spokesmen acting as newscasters and, in violation of federal law, failed to disclose the administration's role in developing and financing them.
And those were not isolated incidents, David M. Walker, the comptroller general, said in a letter dated Thursday that put all agency heads on notice about the practice.
In fact, it has become increasingly common for federal agencies to adopt the public relations tactic of producing "video news releases" that look indistinguishable from authentic newscasts and, as ready-made and cost-free reports, are sometimes picked up by local news programs. It is illegal for the government to produce or distribute such publicity material domestically without disclosing its own role . . . .
"Prepackaged news stories," Mr. Walker wrote, "can be utilized without violating the law, so long as there is clear disclosure to the television viewing audience that this material was prepared by or in cooperation with the government department or agency."
But Democrats said they hoped the letter would lead to tougher scrutiny of what they describe as an aggressive publicity machine within the administration. "The G.A.O. is sending a clear message to the Bush administration: shut down the propaganda mill," Senator Frank R. Lautenberg of New Jersey said in a statement on Friday. "The G.A.O. is simply telling the White House to stop manipulating media, stop paying journalists and be straight with the American people."