Bush Stands By VNRs

President George W. Bush said Wednesday that the administration will continue to use packaged video-news releases, and it's up to stations to inform their viewers where they came from if they choose to.

Bush cited a Justice Department opinion from last July, which held that such VNRs are not "covert propaganda." That opinion conflicts with one from the GAO that said they were, but Justice is the administration's controlling legal authority.

The administration has been criticized for VNRs on healthcare and drug policy, among others, that feautre actors posing as reporters and can be mistaken for news stories without disclaimers.

The President said it is up to local stations to make those disclosures.
"Justice says that these pieces are in the law if based on facts not advocacy," said the President. "Stations, if there is a deep concern, ought to tell viewers what they are watching."

In a letter sent to Health & Human Services last week, Rep. George Miller and others asked HHS for copies of its video news releases, contracts and the stations airing the VNRs following reports the department was still using them after the GAO advisory that they constituted "covert propaganda."

An HHS spokesman said HHS would get back to Congress "in due time," but the answer will be the same as the President's,  that Justice, HHS' controlling legal authority, has concluded the packaged VNR's aren't covert propaganda.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.