Hollywood Defends White House Drug Script Review 

Hollywood Defends White House Drug Script Review 
Posted by FoM on February 10, 2000 at 09:13:01 PT
Source: Media Central
   Television executives told Congress Wednesday they did not pander to the government's anti-drug campaign when they showed officials popular TV shows containing anti-drug themes in return for cash incentives.   Last month the issue drew national attention when online magazine accused the U.S. government of inserting anti-drug messages into popular TV programs in exchange for giving the networks back millions of dollars worth of advertising time the government had bought at discount prices. 
Executives from ABC and CBS networks told the House of Representatives' Committee on Commerce that the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) paid millions of dollars since 1998 in return for anti-drug themes in popular shows like "Cosby," "The Practice" and "NYPD Blue."   But the executives maintained their scripts were never influenced by, tampered with or edited by government officials in charge of the anti-drug pact.   "In no case have programs been produced for the purpose of receiving ONDCP credit," CBS Senior Vice President Martin Franks told the hearing.   Under the program the ONDCP -- better know as the the drug czar's office -- would buy advertising time from the networks to broadcast anti-drug messages. The networks would then match that with a similar number of public service announcements or programming which contained an anti-drug theme.   Debate Over Government Influence:   Whether or not the government's campaign influenced the creative process -- a possible interference of First Amendment rights -- has become a subject of national debate.   Committee Chairman Tom Bliley (R-Va) said he was "concerned that the networks may have been happy to tilt their artistic control when advertising time became a hot commodity."   CBS's Franks admitted that on at least two occasions his network had shown its television shows before they were aired in order to determine whether they would qualify for the drug czar's incentives. But he said the network had never altered its programming to qualify for the incentives.   Alex Wallau, president of administration and operations for ABC, said his network had netted almost $40 million under the scheme in the 1999 television season and is scheduled to receive close to $20 million this year.   But he noted that doing business with the government was not a cash cow, but a public service.   "If we had not entered into our relationship with ONDCP, we would have made at least $50 million more selling (the advertising time commercially,) especially in today's booming advertising marketplace," Wallau said.   CBS no longer shows programs to the drug czar's office before airing; ABC said it had never done so.   The arrangement began with a 1997 decision by Congress to fund a five-year, $1 billion program to buy anti-drug advertising from TV networks at a special, half-price rate.   Dr. Donald Vereen of the drug czar's office told the hearing, "This is not propaganda we are talking about."   He defended the scheme saying youth drug use was declining, lower by 13 percent between 1997 and 1998 adding that his office had only offered networks "technical assistance."   'Resist Use of Propaganda'   But Robert Corn-Revere, a partner at Washington law firm Hogan and Hartson, told the hearing that the scheme raised thorny freedom of speech issues.   "As a nation dedicated to the freedom of expression, the United States should resist embracing the use of propaganda as an acceptable policy, regardless of the merits of any particular message," Corn-Revere said.   Jef Loeb of Katsin/Loeb Advertising in San Francisco said that lack of disclosure was a major problem with the scheme, as was the notion that the campaign was in the national interest.   "If it's okay for the government to engage in undisclosed marketing tactics when it comes to drugs, how about tobacco," he asked. "And if it's okay for tobacco, how about teen pregnancy ... or any of a hundred other issues that could legitimately lay claim to be in the national interest?"   Loeb seemed to mirror the sentiment of many members on the committee when he summed up his testimony saying, "In this case the wrong thing got done for the right reason." Washington, Feb 9 (Reuters)Published: February 9, 2000 1999 Reuters Limited. Related Articles:House Questions Influence on Shows Concerned Over Anti-Drug Ad Deal
Home Comment Email Register Recent Comments Help

Comment #1 posted by Rainbow on February 10, 2000 at 09:52:17 PT
Honestly and clearly, I am innocent
Why would they say anything different? The money was good the propaganda was easy and they had the where withall.I remember the Tobacco executives swearing infront of the Congressional committee that nicotine is not addictive. These executives are probably holding their hands up swearing on a bible they did nothing wrong.Sorry but I do not believe the people who make millions and want to preserve their jobs.They did wrong and they probably know it.CheersRainbow
[ Post Comment ]

Post Comment

Name: Optional Password: 
Comment: [Please refrain from using profanity in your message]
Link URL: 
Link Title: