Senate Commerce Committee Approves Bill To Regulate Video News Releases
The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee on Thursday by voice vote approved a bill (S 967) that would require federal agencies to disclose when they pay for or prepare prepackaged news stories aired on commercial radio and television stations, CQ Today reports.
According to CQ Today, the Bush administration has received criticism for the use of video news releases to "tout" the new Medicare prescription drug benefit and education policies. The Bush administration has said VNRs that do not identify the federal government as the source are legal, but the Government Accountability Office has said VNRs for the Medicare prescription drug benefit and education policies violated propaganda laws. Congress approved legislation that included regulations on VNRs as part of a fiscal year 2005 supplemental appropriations bill, but the provisions expired on Sept. 30.
The bill approved on Thursday would extend the regulations. The committee approved the legislation after the passage of an amendment sponsored by Chair Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) that would allow radio and television stations to decide how to phrase disclaimers from federal agencies. The original bill would have required VNRs to include the phrase, "Produced by the U.S. government," but broadcasters said that such a provision would "interfere with the creative discretion of station managers," CQ Today reports.
The amendment also would allow the Federal Communications Commission to establish regulations to determine when broadcasters and cable and satellite operators could remove or revise the disclaimers, an action that the original bill would not have allowed.
"I'm proud that the committee has taken a stand to ensure that Americans know when a story has been produced by the administration with their tax dollars," Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), who sponsored the bill, said (Sharma, CQ Today, 10/20).