Prime-time Propaganda

Discussion in 'Freedom and Liberty' started by Seacowboys, Oct 15, 2009.

  1. Seacowboys

    Seacowboys Senior Member Founding Member

    [FONT=times new roman, times, serif] [/FONT][FONT=times new roman, times, serif][FONT=times, times new roman, serif]Prime-time propaganda[/FONT]
    [FONT=times, times new roman, serif]How the White House secretly hooked network TV on its anti-drug message: A Salon special report.[/FONT]
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    [FONT=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]By Daniel Forbes[/FONT]

    [FONT=times new roman, times, serif][FONT=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]Jan. 13, 2000[/FONT] | <content> Advertisements urging parents to love their kids and keep them off drugs dot urban bus stops across America. Anti-drug commercials fill Channel One in the nation's schools and the commercial breaks of network TV -- most notably a comely, T-shirt-clad waif trashing her kitchen to demonstrate the dangers of heroin. We've come a long way from Nancy Reagan's clenched-teeth "Just Say No."</content>[/FONT]
    [FONT=times new roman, times, serif]Few Americans, however, know of a hidden government effort to shoehorn anti-drug messages into the most pervasive and powerful billboard of all -- network television programming.[/FONT]
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    [FONT=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]Also Today[/FONT]
    [FONT=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]Washington script doctors
    How the government rewrote an episode of the WB's "Smart Guy."
    By Daniel Forbes
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    [FONT=times new roman, times, serif]Two years ago, Congress inadvertently created an enormous financial incentive for TV programmers to push anti-drug messages in their plots -- as much as $25 million in the past year and a half, with the promise of even more to come in the future. Under the sway of the office of President Clinton's drug czar, Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey, some of America's most popular shows -- including "ER," "Beverly Hills 90210," "Chicago Hope," "The Drew Carey Show" and "7th Heaven" -- have filled their episodes with anti-drug pitches to cash in on a complex government advertising subsidy.[/FONT]
    [FONT=times new roman, times, serif]Here's how helping the government got to be so lucrative.[/FONT]
    [FONT=times new roman, times, serif]In late 1997, Congress approved an immense, five-year, $1 billion ad buy for anti-drug advertising as long as the networks sold ad time to the government at half price -- a two-for-one deal that provided over $2 billion worth of ads for a $1 billion allocation.[/FONT]
    [FONT=times new roman, times, serif]But the five participating networks weren't crazy about the deal from the start. And when, soon after, they were deluged with the fruits of a booming economy, most particularly an unexpected wave of dot-com ads, they liked it even less.[/FONT]
    [FONT=times new roman, times, serif]So the drug czar's office, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), presented the networks with a compromise: The office would give up some of that precious ad time it had bought -- in return for getting anti-drug motifs incorporated within specific prime-time shows. That created a new, more potent strain of the anti-drug social engineering the government wanted. And it allowed the TV networks to resell the ad time at the going rate to IBM, Microsoft or Yahoo.[/FONT]
    [FONT=times new roman, times, serif]Alan Levitt, the drug-policy official running the campaign, estimates that the networks have benefited to the tune of nearly $25 million thus far.[/FONT]
    [FONT=times new roman, times, serif]With this deal in place, government officials and their contractors began approving, and in some cases altering, the scripts of shows before they were aired to conform with the government's anti-drug messages. "Script changes would be discussed between ONDCP and the show -- negotiated," says one participant.[/FONT]
    [FONT=times new roman, times, serif]Rick Mater, the WB network's senior vice president for broadcast standards, acknowledges: "The White House did view scripts. They did sign off on them -- they read scripts, yes."[/FONT]
    [FONT=times new roman, times, serif]The arrangement, uncovered by a six-month Salon News investigation, is known to only a few insiders in Hollywood, New York and Washington. Almost none of the producers and writers crafting the anti-drug episodes knew of the deal. And top officials from the five networks involved last season -- NBC, ABC, CBS, the WB and Fox -- for the most part refused to discuss it. The sixth network, UPN, failed to attract the government's interest the first year of the program; it joined the flock this current TV season.[/FONT]
    [FONT=times new roman, times, serif]The arrangement may violate payola laws that require networks to disclose, during a show's broadcast, arrangements with any party providing financial or other considerations, however direct or indirect. (We'll explore that issue in a separate article Friday.)[/FONT]
    [FONT=times new roman, times, serif]Legal or not, the plan raises a host of questions. "It sounds to me like a form of propaganda that is, in effect, for sale," says media watchdog Bill Kovach, curator of the Nieman Foundation. Terming it a "venal practice" and "a form of mind control," he adds, "It's breathtaking to me that any [network's] sense of obligation to the viewing audience has a dollar sign attached to it."[/FONT]
    [FONT=times new roman, times, serif]Andrew Jay Schwartzman, president of the Media Access Project, a public interest law firm, says, "This is the most craven thing I've heard of yet. To turn over content control to the federal government for a modest price is an outrageous abandonment of the First Amendment ... The broadcasters scream about the First Amendment until McCaffrey opens his checkbook."[/FONT]
    [FONT=times new roman, times, serif]Former FCC chief counsel Robert Corn-Revere, now at the law firm Hogan & Hartson, calls the campaign "pretty insidious. Government surreptitiously planting anti-drug messages using the power of the purse raises red flags. Why is there no disclosure to the American public?"[/FONT]
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    [FONT=times new roman, times, serif]The ONDCP, the powerful executive-branch department from which the anti-drug effort emanates, is more commonly known as the drug czar's office. McCaffrey, a Vietnam War hero, directs it and sits on Clinton's Cabinet.[/FONT]
    [FONT=times new roman, times, serif]The office oversees spending of nearly $18 billion annually for such activities as fighting peasants growing coca in Latin America, helping interdict drugs entering the United States, local law enforcement and research and treatment. Though Bob Dole savaged non-inhaler Clinton as weak on drugs during the 1996 presidential campaign, Clinton has quietly been Washington's most aggressive anti-drug warrior. Says Dr. Thomas H. Haines, City University of New York medical school professor and chair of the Partnership for Responsible Drug Information, "Clinton spent more federal money in the war on drugs in his first four years than was spent during Reagan's and Bush's 12 years combined." [/FONT]
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