FCC asked to investigate agencies' video news releases

Senate Commerce ranking member Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, has urged the Federal Communications to investigate the use of government-produced video news releases by local broadcasters that do not provide attribution.

Clips of videos created by federal agencies have been broadcast frequently on local news programs without reference to the fact that they were produced by the government, according to press reports.

"Certain broadcasters are editing government-created VNRs to make it appear as if such information is the result of independent news-gathering," Inouye said in a letter sent Tuesday to the FCC and released Wednesday.

He added that it "seems to violate FCC rules requiring attribution for the airing of 'any political broadcast matter' or 'the discussion of a controversial issue of public importance.' "

Asked about the practice at a Wednesday news conference, President Bush said: "There is a Justice Department opinion that says these pieces are within the law so long as they're based upon facts, not advocacy. And I expect our agencies to adhere to that ruling, to that Justice Department opinion."

But he added: "I think it would be helpful if local stations then disclosed to their viewers that this was based upon a factual report and they chose to use it. But evidently in some cases that's not the case."

Health and Human Servics Secretary Mike Leavitt defended his agency's use of video news releases that are not clearly identified as government productions, despite a Government Accountability Office opinion that such communications violate a ban on propaganda.

At a Senate Labor-HHS Appropriations Subcommittee hearing, Leavitt said educating 41 million Medicare beneficiaries about the new prescription drug benefit that begins next year "is a very big challenge" and the department would use whatever means available to communicate needed information.

He said "we will follow guidance of our legal counsel," which differs from that of the GAO.

Labor-HHS Appropriations Subcommittee ranking member Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, got Leavitt to agree to provide the subcommittee with the budget for public relations, including contracts with public relations firms. The videos that GAO found inappropriate last year were produced by outside contractors.

Harkin said he did not object so much to the department producing such videos, but to the fact that they were not clearly identified as government-produced.

"We send out letters and information all the time," he said. "But at least we sign our names. Shouldn't HHS sign this stuff?"

Said Leavitt, who was not at the department during last year's flap over the Medicare information, "That seems like a logical approach."

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

    Download
  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

    Download
  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

    Download
  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

    Download
  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

    Download
  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

    Download
  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.