White House Clarifies Anti-Drug Program

White House Clarifies Anti-Drug Program
Posted by FoM on January 19, 2000 at 22:33:33 PT
The Associated Press
Source: ABCNews
The White House drug policy office set guidelines today to clarify its arrangement with broadcasters who want government financial credits for inserting anti-drug messages into their programs.   Under the new rules, the government will not review program episodes for such credits until after the episodes have aired or been published. 
The office also said it would keep separate its process for granting financial credits from its role in advising networks and producers on how to portray situations involving drugs.   White House press secretary Joe Lockhart said the change should put “the program on a track where it will get universal support.”   “They’ve revised their policy to no longer look at scripts or do changes in programming for credit before a program is finished,” he said.   The office was responding to recent fallout from the disclosure that the government used financial incentives to get TV networks to include anti-drug messages into their shows, in some cases even reviewing the scripts before the programs aired.   The arrangement has been criticized as government intrusion on the independence of networks. Eliminating Misunderstandings: The guidelines set out today are an effort “to eliminate any misunderstandings and prevent any inference of federal intrusion in the creative process,” said Barry McCaffrey, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.   The new parameters still require a 100 percent match for every dollar the federal government spends on media outlets and continue to allow broadcast executives to decide how to meet this requirement. Namely, networks can still receive financial credit for the content of their programs.   In addition, the drug office said it would still make available scientific and technical experts to the entertainment industry.   “We have forged a strong partnership with the entertainment and media community and look forward to continuing to strengthen those ties,” said McCaffrey. The office plans to periodically seek the advice of the entertainment industry on the credit process as well.   The arrangement stemmed from Congress’ 1997 approval of a program to buy anti-drug ads on TV. Networks were asked to match each commercial spot bought by the government with a free one. Since the program started, however, the government has since agreed to give up some of its ad time—as long as the networks demonstrate that some of their programs convey anti-drug messages.   Now that evaluation will take place after the programs have been aired, according to the office. Networks Welcome Clarification: Network executives said any guidelines that more clearly defined the relationship between the media outlets and the government would be welcomed.   “I think it can only help in clarifying how the process works,” said NBC spokeswoman Shirley Powell.   But she also asserted that NBC never did anything it considered inappropriate. In cases where the network did send the drug office scripts for shows, those programs already were complete, she said.   The scripts “were never sent for approval or input,” she said.   Rep. Billy Tauzin, R-La., chairman of the House Commerce Committee’s telecommunications panel, still wants to hold hearings on the matter this spring, despite the establishment of the guidelines.   “We’re not going to allow the federal government to become a censor,” said Tauzin spokesman Ken Johnson. Published: January 19, 2000Copyright 2000 The Associated Press. Related Articles:White House Establishes Guidelines - 1/19/2000
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