March 15, 2004 8:01 AM   Subscribe

Bush administration pays actors to pose as TV journalists praising the benefits of the new Medicare law.
posted by four panels (24 comments total)
Full article from the NYTimes.
posted by four panels at 8:03 AM on March 15, 2004

Bill Kovach, chairman of the Committee of Concerned Journalists, expressed disbelief that any television stations would present the Medicare videos as real news segments, considering the current debate about the merits of the new law.

"Those to me are just the next thing to fraud," Mr. Kovach said. "It's running a paid advertisement in the heart of a news program."

That's my take on it too. How can this not be fraud? It's certainly propaganda.
posted by dejah420 at 8:11 AM on March 15, 2004

Fictitious times, indeed
posted by ElvisJesus at 8:21 AM on March 15, 2004

Indeed. Remember how the RNC (not the FCC, which has jurisdiction, but the Republican National Committee) was sending intimidating letters to TV stations saying that their license renewals would be in jeopardy if they aired MoveOn's campaign ads?

Seems like TV stations would be in just as much jeopardy for failing to serve the public interest if they air these government-produced, one-sided VNRs as actual news.

Since RNC chair Ed Gillespie says that his problem with the MoveOn ads was "the funding, not the content", you'd think that he'd be anxious to comply with the law prohibiting government creation of propaganda, and send a threatening letter to HHS. I'm not gonna hold my breath.
posted by Vidiot at 8:25 AM on March 15, 2004

I'm not sure how close to fraud this is, but it isn't good news for the administration, yet again. Private companies have been disseminating segments like this for poor rural stations to air for years.
But this Medicare bill is proving to be a really costly bill, passed so that the GOP can take the issue away from the Democrats, but with the hoopla over an actuary being threatened if he should disclose the real numbers involved with the bill, I wonder if support is really, finally, crumbling under its own weight.
posted by Busithoth at 8:26 AM on March 15, 2004

advertorial 'news'. ugh.
posted by dabitch at 8:32 AM on March 15, 2004

Flanders Press headline: "Playtime is Fun!"
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 8:32 AM on March 15, 2004

Yeah, but Bill Clinton had some commericials too, you bunch of fucking hypocrites. Impeach Klinton in '04!
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 8:44 AM on March 15, 2004

Are video press releases actually new? I thought they were pretty much standard fare going back about ten years.

The next thing you know, pr firms will put out press releases complete with datelines and written in AP style, oh wait, they have been doing that for forty years.
posted by ednopantz at 8:49 AM on March 15, 2004

That's nothing surprising coming from this administration, actually they also seem to have hired actors posing as "economic advisors" -- you know, the ones saying that outsourcing to India is good for the economy, and that your school-time stint working at Mickey D's makes you a "former manufacturing worker".
posted by clevershark at 8:59 AM on March 15, 2004

VNRs are nothing new, and they're more like twenty years old at this point. Every broadcaster receives them. But no self-respecting news organization (which is an ever-dwindling number, alas), runs them as is. They usually, along with a pre-edited package, include 20 minutes or so of video. I see no problem with using that video to accompany, say, an evenhanded script written in-house...as long as you acknowledge the source of the video. The problem comes when you run propaganda or commercial messages as "news"...they haven't gone through the editorial process, and they shouldn't be presented as such.

Likewise, I see nothing wrong with using VNR video of, say, Medicare announcements in a story written about them. Sometimes (and this is more true for commercial VNRs advertising products and such) their video is much better than anything your organization could come up with. Just put a graphic up saying "Video News Release", "Handout Video", or "US Government Video" to let the viewers know what's going on. It's like declaring a conflict of interest...you have to do it if you want to be ethical. Giving readers/viewers more information is always laudable, in my book.
posted by Vidiot at 9:04 AM on March 15, 2004

Bush Administration pays actor to pose as POTUS praising the benefits of:

- shooting Arabs
- shoveling money into Cheney's pockets
- removing all public services
- global warming
- discriminating against gays, brown people, women, the poor, etc. etc. etc.
posted by zekinskia at 9:08 AM on March 15, 2004

From that NYT article;

People who call that number can obtain recorded information about prescription drug benefits if they recite the words "Medicare improvement."

Now see, that's the professional's touch. Make the public state your talking point label in order to get the information the government is offering. That's a real understanding of the salesman's technique.
posted by dglynn at 9:54 AM on March 15, 2004

News created by special interest groups is very common. Everyone does it even the Democrats. Another reason to be wary of mainstream press distribution channels and an even better reason to toss the TV in the trash where it belongs. There is just no way to know truth from lies on TV, at least with print media it is possible to have some degree of authentication of the source.
posted by stbalbach at 10:17 AM on March 15, 2004

"This 'need to know, our eyes only' stuff is getting too restrictive for us to do a decent job," said [Pete] Stark, the ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means health subcommittee.

now you say something?

the Medicare prescription-drug plan was yet another horrible idea from the Republicans. if they wanted to pull the wool over everyone's eyes, they should have done it closer to the election. by November, everyone will know it's a crock.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:25 AM on March 15, 2004

By November, nobody will care.
posted by kindall at 10:31 AM on March 15, 2004

Having a 24 hour fake news network isn't enough?
posted by 2sheets at 10:32 AM on March 15, 2004

This just in: CNN pays people to pose as journalists!

But like everyone else has said, all kinds of groups do this and have done it for a long time. It's not some new republikkkan conspiracy
posted by BackwardsHatClub at 10:51 AM on March 15, 2004

old hat or not, I still think it is shady.
posted by mcsweetie at 11:39 AM on March 15, 2004

This is nothing. Back in the 80s, the Republicans paid an actor to pose as the President.
posted by Ty Webb at 1:41 PM on March 15, 2004

good one ty.

btw has anyone ever seen a newspaper article that actually tells you whats in a government bill and how it would benefit people ?
Im actually under european law here and i've never seen a newspaper article telling me what my rights are.
posted by sgt.serenity at 2:54 PM on March 15, 2004

By November, nobody will care

i'm not sure. old people vote. this legislation is bad news for a lot of them. the medicare issue is not going away.
posted by mrgrimm at 6:32 PM on March 15, 2004

[not intended as satirical]
Everyone does it even the Democrats.

[intended as satirical]
Yeah, but Bill Clinton had some commericials too, you bunch of fucking hypocrites. Impeach Klinton in '04!

Yet another example of the Defenders Of All Things Dubya at a complete loss. "Everyone else does it." This unacceptable even for a five year old kid to use as a defense.
Tell me again O' Defenders who said, "I will restore honor and integrity to the WhiteWash House."
posted by nofundy at 6:00 AM on March 16, 2004

TDS spot
posted by jacobsee at 4:06 PM on March 18, 2004

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