What are government-funded fake newscasts?
What are government-funded fake newscasts?
Mon Mar 14, 2005 13:52

What are government-funded fake newscasts?

Under President Bush, at least 20 different federal agencies have produced "prepackaged, ready-to-serve" reports that are distributed to hundreds of television stations, such as Fox 13 in Memphis, TN or WCIA 3 in Champaign, IL. These reports are often broadcast on television news programs without disclosing that the segments are produced and paid for by the US federal government.
Source: The New York Times, 3/13/2005, "Under Bush, a New Age of Prepackaged News".

How much public money has the Bush administration spent on this propaganda programming?
The investigation by The New York Times showed that the Bush administration has spent unprecedented sums of money on these fake news programs and has already paid PR firms more than $254 million to create this programming.
Source: The New York Times, 3/13/2005, "Under Bush, a New Age of Prepackaged News".

What does the independent Government Accountability Office (G.A.O.) say about these government-produced fake news segments?
In three separate reports, the G.A.O. has criticized the Bush administration's government-made "news" programs. The GAO has concluded that these reports may constitute "covert propaganda." The GAO concluded that Bush administration agencies "designed and executed" these reports "to be indistinguishable from news stories produced by the private sector television news organizations."
Source: The New York Times, 3/13/2005, "Under Bush, a New Age of Prepackaged News"; The Washington Post, 1/9/2005, "Drug Control Office Faulted For Issuing Fake News Tapes".

Is it legal for the Bush administration to use taxpayer money to advocate for its political agenda?
No. Many of the fake news segments produced and disseminated by the Bush administration violate laws that prohibit the government from using taxpayer dollars for political lobbying activities. The GAO has concluded that a number of Bush administration television segments misused public funds and "violated the publicity or propaganda prohibitions."
Source: Government Accountability Office, 1/4/05, "Office of National Drug Control Policy--Video News Release, B-303495" (citing 31 U.S.C. 1341 and Pub. L. No. 108-199).

Is it legal for television stations to air these fake news reports?
No. If television stations air programs that are paid for by the federal government, the stations must disclose that information at the time they air the program. The GAO reports indicate that a great number of stations aired these programs and did not disclose that they were produced and paid for by the government. Moreover, the FCC has already concluded that "listeners and viewers are entitled to know by whom they are being persuaded." This failure to disclose the source of the programming violates federal laws including the Radio Act and Section 317 of the Communications Act.
Source: FCC, 12/22/2000, "Enforcement Letter" (citing the Radio Act and 47 U.S.C. 317); FCC, "Payola and Sponsorship Identification" (citing 47 U.S.C. 317).

Do we support free speech?
Absolutely. And free speech means expressing our outrage when television stations trumpet government propaganda without disclosing the source. Free speech also means telling the government to stop using taxpayer money to illegally promote a partisan political agenda.

Take Action
Call the Networks
You can also Start Change by calling our national broadcast television networks and demanding that they adopt a policy by which any of their local television stations must clearly disclose the source of any "newscasts" that are actually produced by the government.

You can call
ABC: 212-456-7777
CBS: 212-975-4321
FOX: 310-369-3066
NBC: 212-664-4444
UPN: 310-575-7000
WB: 818-977-6878

Please remember to be firm but polite when you call.

"It amounts to propaganda, doesn't it?" said Mike Stutz, news director at KGTV,
the ABC affiliate in San Diego. (New York Times, 3/13/2005)


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