martha rosler on Fri, 18 Mar 2005 09:05:38 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Reuters: Bush Defends Packaged News Stories from Government

turns out , it's all okay, then--because these "pieces" are based upon 

Bush Defends Packaged News Stories from Government
Wed Mar 16, 2005 06:03 PM ET
By Caren Bohan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Bush said on Wednesday the U.S. 
government's practice of sending packaged news stories to local television 
stations was legal and he had no plans to stop it.

His defense of the packages, which are designed to look like television 
news segments, came after they were deemed a form of covert propaganda by 
the Government Accountability Office watchdog agency.

Some television stations have been airing such pieces without a disclaimer 
saying they were produced by the government. The GAO, an arm of Congress, 
said that ran counter to appropriation laws and was a misuse of federal 

Bush cited a Justice Department opinion the segments were legal.

"There is a Justice Department opinion that says these -- these pieces -- 
are within the law, so long as they're based upon facts, not advocacy," 
the president told a news conference.

David Walker, the comptroller general who heads the GAO, said he disagreed 
with Bush's stance and was "disappointed by the administration's actions."

"This is not just a legal issue, it's also an ethical matter," Walker 
said. "The taxpayers have a right to know when the government is trying to 
influence them with their own money."

Bush said government agencies, such as the Agriculture and Defense 
Departments, had been producing such videos for a long time and that it 
was appropriate so long as they were "based upon a factual report."

He said it was up to the local news stations to disclose that the segments 
were produced by the government.

It was not the first time the Bush administration has been criticized for 
blurring the line between media and government. Earlier this year, the 
Education Department acknowledged it paid conservative commentator 
Armstrong Williams $240,000 to promote the No Child Left Behind Act.

The Federal Communications Commission is investigating the Williams 

Among the packages the GAO looked at was one produced by the Health and 
Human Services Department to promote the Medicare prescription drug law. 
The story included a paid actor who narrated the piece in a similar style 
to the way a television reporter would.

"The entire story package was developed with appropriated funds but 
appears to be an independent news story," the GAO said.

In a letter, Sen. Daniel Inouye, Democrat of Hawaii, asked the FCC to 
investigate the government-produced videos.

He called the airing of such videos without any attribution an "alarming 

"Not only does this lack of disclosure represent a serious breach of 
journalistic ethics, but it also seems to violate FCC rules requiring 
attribution of 'any political broadcast matter' or 'the discussion of a 
controversial issue of public importance,"' Inouye said.

Reuters 2005

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