DrugSense FOCUS Alert # 154 January 15, 2000 

DrugSense FOCUS Alert # 154 January 15, 2000 
Posted by FoM on January 15, 2000 at 17:43:01 PT
ONDCP - PDFA Accused of Propaganda 
Source: DrugSense
The tax-funded anti-drug propaganda campaign sponsored by the Office of National Drug Control Policy and the Partnership for a Drug-Free America is being closely scrutinized in the wake of a story first published by the online journal Salon. story concerns ONDCP/PDFA efforts to place anti-drug messages not only in TV advertisements, but into television programs themselves. The networks were not only rewarded with ads (and ad money) for working anti-drug messages into programming, the networks actually got federal money without running ads (thus leaving the ad space open for other paying advertisers) if the anti-drug messages were deemed effective enough. Also, the narcs were allowed review and suggest changes for scripts before the shows were actually produced. Variations of the Salon story have been prominently featured throughout major media organizations ever since the story broke. While most of the stories (like the one from the Washington Post below) focus on the questionable ethics of such an arrangement, the damage from the propaganda is much worse. By allowing the drug warriors even more access to spread their poisonous messages, the networks have attempted to push the debate about drug policy away from reason. Please write a letter to the Washington Post or any other major newspaper to protest this latest attempt to escalate the drug war. Thanks for your effort and support. WRITE A LETTER TODAYIt's not what others do it's what YOU do PLEASE SEND US A COPY OF YOUR LETTER OR TELL US WHAT YOU DID (Letter, Phone, fax etc.)Please post a copy your letter or report your action to the sent letter list (sentlet if you are subscribed, or by E-mailing a copy directly to MGreer Your letter will then be forwarded to the list with so others can learn from your efforts and be motivated to follow suit This is VERY IMPORTANT as it is the only way we have of gauging our impact and effectiveness.CONTACT INFO:Source: Washington Post (DC) Contact: Note: For best results write your letter off line so you can spell check etc. then paste it into the LTE window at the address above. EXTRA CREDIT:Send a copy of your letter to other major newspapers in the US. Please don't use the CC or the BCC function; send each as a separate message. Source: The New York Times Contact: letters Source: USA Today Contact: editor Source: Chicago Tribune Contact: ctc-TribLetter Source: Wall Street Journal Contact: letter.editor EXTRA EXTRA CREDITSend a copy of your letter to your own local newspaper or any other newspaper around the country. This is a huge story that has been covered almost everywhere.ARTICLE:Pubdate: Fri, 14 Jan 2000 Source: Washington Post (DC) Section: Front Page Copyright: 2000 The Washington Post Company Address: 1150 15th Street Northwest, Washington, DC 20071 Feedback: Website: Author: Howard Kurtz and Sharon Waxman Washington Post Staff Writers Note: Waxman reported from Los Angeles. See: The Salon article at: HOUSE, NETWORKS CUT ANTI-DRUG DEAL Ad Credits Given For 'Proper Message' The White House, in quiet collaboration with the six major broadcast television networks, has reviewed the scripts of such popular shows as "ER," "Chicago Hope" and "Beverly Hills, 90210" and made suggestions on at least two dozen programs to help them convey an aggressively anti-drug message.In exchange for their cooperation, a White House official confirmed yesterday, the networks were freed from obligations to provide $22 million in public-service advertising over the past two years, allowing them to sell the lucrative time to corporate advertisers.Alan Levitt, who runs the program in the White House drug czar's office, said his office reviews television scripts "to see if they're on strategy or not" by portraying youth drug use in a negative light. If so, the networks are given credits that enable them to sell more air time to commercial advertisers rather than donating it for anti-drug and other messages.The arrangement, first reported by the online magazine Salon, drew swift criticism. "If the public begins to believe that a message is only being put forward because of financial remuneration, there's strong chance of undermining the value of all our messages," said John Wells, executive producer of "ER." Wells, who said he had been unaware of the cooperation with the White House, said the effort "implies that the programs you're watching can be influenced by those kinds of financial incentives, and that's simply not the case."Andrew Jay Schwartzman, president of the nonprofit Media Access Project, said: "The idea of the government attempting to influence public opinion covertly is reprehensible beyond words. It's one thing to appropriate money to buy ads, another thing to spend the money to influence the public subliminally. And it's monstrously selfish and irresponsible on the part of the broadcasters." Some network executives said their companies submitted scripts for review in advance, while others said the White House examined shows after they aired. But all those interviewed yesterday said they never allowed the government to dictate the programs' content. Robert Weiner, spokesman for the drug control office, said the advertising credits are granted for a prime-time program "which is a very positive statement and has the proper message on drugs and is accurate. There's nothing wrong with that. They've given us positive programs. If you've got a good 'ER,' that's certainly as important as an ad."The unusual financial arrangement stems from a 1997 law in which Congress approved $1 billion for anti-drug advertising over five years; this year's allotment is $185 million. Networks that agree to participate are legally required to provide a dollar-for-dollar match for each spot purchased by the government by carrying public-service ads by nonprofit groups working with the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, or ONDCP. After some networks balked, drug control officials worked out a compromise. They said they would credit the networks for each entertainment program with what they viewed as the proper message - up to three 30-second spots per show - enabling network executives to sell that time to corporate advertisers instead of using it for public-service ads.For example, Levitt praised as "wonderful" a 1998 episode of ABC's "Home Improvement" in which the parents (played by Tim Allen and Patricia Richardson) confronted their oldest son about smoking marijuana, despite their own past drug use, after discovering a bag of pot in the back yard.The White House has worked with more than 100 shows, which may feature such themes as "parents in denial" or "peer refusal skills," Levitt said. He said the office's experts reviewed scripts in advance in perhaps 50 cases, and that in two dozen instances a network asked for the administration's input. The contacts are generally with sales executives, not writers and producers, Levitt said, and each network can receive credit for up to 15 percent of its commitment for public-service ads.Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.), chairman of the House subcommittee that oversees the White House drug office, said: "I'm not going to be wringing my hands over the fact that we're getting some positive messages out." He said that "the networks were willing to have some consultations on scripts. ... If they feel they're being strong-armed by ONDCP, they can walk away at any time." Several network executives confirmed the government's financial incentives but said they knew of no scripts that had been changed as a result.Julie Hoover, an ABC vice president, said the network aired more public-service announcements than was required and therefore did not benefit from the advertising credits. Hoover said ABC has sent the drug czar's office tapes of shows with anti-drug messages - including "The Practice," "Home Improvement" and "Sports Night" - only after the programs had already aired.Rosalyn Weinman, NBC's executive vice president of broadcast content policy, said in a statement that the network "never ceded control to the ONDCP or any department of the government. At no time did NBC turn over scripts for approval from the ONDCP." An NBC spokeswoman explained that the network sent the White House scripts with drug-related plots for review before being aired, "but we didn't take input from them, absolutely not." The spokeswoman would not confirm or deny Salon's report that NBC redeemed $1.4 million worth of ad time in exchange for several "ER" episodes that dealt with drug abuse. A CBS spokesman said the network had been able to recoup advertising time for anti-drug plot lines on such hit shows as "Touched by an Angel," "Cosby" and "Chicago Hope." But, he added, "the notion that a Hollywood producer would change a script for the government is ludicrous. ... All the shows we've put on were going to go on anyway. So I don't know what the problem is." But producers at one CBS program, "Chicago Hope," resuscitated a script with a strong anti-drug theme because of a suggestion from a television executive. John Tinker, executive producer of "Chicago Hope," said he reworked a script that had been put aside after getting a call from Mark Stroman, then of 20th Century Fox Television, co-owner of the show, who requested a drug-related script. That show, broadcast last year, featured young partygoers who suffered a drug-induced death, a rape, a car accident and a broken nose. While he didn't revise the plot because of the request, Tinker said, "I do feel manipulated. It's not so much this particular instance in which we seem to have been unwittingly involved. ... I would have liked to be told. If the president wants us to talk about drugs - could I be told? I'd like to be told." In one instance, White House officials said, CBS received advertising credit for a "Cosby" episode in which Bill Cosby ended the show, in character, by appealing to viewers to call a toll-free number for information about drug abuse.Fox spokesman Tom Tyrer said the network did not redeem advertising credits for two shows - a "Beverly Hills, 90210" episode in which a character descends into addiction and an "America's Most Wanted" segment in which White House drug policy direct Barry McCaffrey was interviewed. Tyrer said the producers were aware of the government program but that no scripts were changed. WB said in a statement that the network redeemed advertising credits after consulting with the White House on scripts for "Smart Guy" and "Wayans Brothers," but said it often talked to outside organizations in preparing programs.Other cooperating programs, the Salon article said, include "Promised Land" on CBS; "The Drew Carey Show," "Sabrina the Teenage Witch," "Boy Meets World," "Sports Night" and "General Hospital" on ABC; "Trinity" and "Providence" on NBC; and WB's "7th Heaven." "This has all been above-board," said Weiner, the White House spokesman. "We're very proud of the accomplishments of the campaign. ... We plead guilty to using every lawful means to save America's children."SAMPLE LETTER (sent)To the Editor of the Washington Post: I was glad to see some of the mischief caused by the federally-funded anti-drug media campaign finally exposed ("WHITE HOUSE, NETWORKS CUT ANTI-DRUG DEAL," Jan. 14). Many have rightly questioned the ethics of secret government payoffs to television networks that worked anti-drug propaganda into programming. However, more basic questions need to be asked about the media campaign's relationship to other drug policy issues.Why, for example, does the Clinton administration want to shell out more than $1.3 billion to the Colombian government to escalate the civil war there? To fight illegal drugs, the administration tells us. And why do we have to fight drugs? Because everyone knows that they are inherently evil. And how do we know for ourselves? Because on TV, only the bad people use and sell illegal drugs, and if any good people get involved with drugs, terrible things happen to them. The real goals of the anti-drug propaganda campaign have little to do with keeping kids (or anyone else) away from drugs. The campaign is designed to cause hysteria, and that hysteria is harnessed to justify any number of evils, from scaling back civil liberties to turning the prison system into a tightly packed gulag. If those people who engineer the drug war didn't constantly promote fear and hate as the only proper responses to illegal drugs, maybe we could look at the situation more realistically to find an approach that doesn't cause more harm than good. Stephen YoungIMPORTANT: Always include your address and telephone numberPlease note: If you choose to use this letter as a model please modify it at least somewhat so that the paper does not receive numerous copies of the same letter and so that the original author receives credit for his/her work. ADDITIONAL INFO to help you in your letter writing efforts3 Tips for Letter Writers Letter Writers Style Guide Make Writing At Least One Letter a Week Your Commitment to ReformTogether we ARE making a difference!TO SUBSCRIBE, DONATE, VOLUNTEER TO HELP, OR UPDATE YOUR EMAIL SEE: UNSUBSCRIBE SEE Prepared by Stephen Young Focus Alert Specialist Related Articles:Our Loss That Profit is No. 1 - 1/15/2000 Magazine Articles:White House Defends TV Drug-Ad Deal - 1/15/2000 Script Doctors - 1/13/2000 Money, How the White House Secretly Hooked TV-1/13/2000 
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Comment #1 posted by Chris Campbell on January 15, 2000 at 19:40:02 PT:
ONDCP = Ministry of Truth
For all you people who have read 1984.
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