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Monday, March 15, 2004

Lying Liars at it again!
If you've read any of the exposes of the public relations industry, like Trust Us, We're Experts! from PR Watch or Global Spin, then you are aware that much of what is presented as "news," especially on local news shows, is actually just packaged PR from corporations and lobbying groups. Well, if you see "news" about how wonderful the new Medicare bill is, it probably was paid for by your tax dollars (unless of course you are rich).

The Department of Health and Human Services has prepared video tapes and scripts bragging about the bill:

The videos are intended for use in local television news programs. Several include pictures of President Bush receiving a standing ovation from a crowd cheering as he signed the Medicare law on Dec. 8.

The materials were produced by the Department of Health and Human Services, which called them video news releases, but the source is not identified. Two videos end with the voice of a woman who says, "In Washington, I'm Karen Ryan reporting."
The government also prepared scripts that can be used by news anchors introducing what the administration describes as a made-for-television "story package."

In one script, the administration suggests that anchors use this language: "In December, President Bush signed into law the first-ever prescription drug benefit for people with Medicare. Since then, there have been a lot of questions about how the law will help older Americans and people with disabilities. Reporter Karen Ryan helps sort through the details."

They withheld information on the real costs of the bill from Congress, they offered bribes to representatives on the House floor, they kept the vote open for some three hours longer than the customary fifteen minutes so that Bush and his cronies could twist more arms, all to pass this huge giveaway to the drug and insurance companies. Now they have the audacity to try to sell this load of crap to us with our own money, and try to disguise these blatantly political ads as news. And given how fervently most local stations worked to sell the war in Iraq, it seems likely that these scripts will be read and videos shown just as the Repugs want.

Here's more:
Kevin W. Keane, a spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services, said there was nothing nefarious about the television materials, which he said had been distributed to stations nationwide. Under federal law, he said, the government is required to inform beneficiaries about changes in Medicare.

"The use of video news releases is a common, routine practice in government and the private sector," Mr. Keane said. "Anyone who has questions about this practice needs to do some research on modern public information tools."

But Democrats disagreed. "These materials are even more disturbing than the Medicare flier and advertisements," said Senator Frank R. Lautenberg, Democrat of New Jersey. "The distribution of these videos is a covert attempt to manipulate the press."

Actually, they're both right. Anyone who has questions about this practice does need to do some research on PR methods (PR Watch being a great source). Because there are still a lot of people out there who believe that TV news is, well, news, and not government and corporate propaganda. And the sooner they are relieved of that mistaken impression the sooner we can get started on fixing this country.