Drug Officials Deny Pressuring Networks

Drug Officials Deny Pressuring Networks
Posted by FoM on February 04, 2000 at 14:46:36 PT
But office will no longer give TV writers guidance
Source: Pioneer Planet
An aide to White House drug czar Barry McCaffrey denied Thursday that administration officials have pressured TV networks to include anti-drug messages in TV programs, but vowed to continue offering financial incentives for the networks to do so.``Drug use is down in this country, and part of that success has been the changing attitude of the entertainment industry toward drugs,'' Alan Levitt, director of the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign, told a Senate panel investigating the administration's controversial practice.
However, Levitt told the panel that the White House anti-drug office no longer would provide ``guidance'' to television scriptwriters while program scripts were still being written.The government's controversial practice of influencing TV programming stems from a government-financed advertising campaign designed to discourage drug use.The $120 million campaign, which began in 1997, pays for anti-drug commercials in prime time on six broadcast networks -- ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, WB and ESPN. For every commercial purchased by the government, the networks agree to donate a substance-abuse-related public service ad in prime time. But the networks can avoid giving away that second ad -- and instead profit by selling the air time -- if their regular programming includes scenes with negative portrayals of substance abuse, as measured by White House previewers. Eager to regain those ad slots so they can sell them to regular commercial advertising, the networks began submitting scripts and tapes to the White House anti-drug office for approval before they were broadcast.According to the White House, scripts or tapes of 130 series episodes were submitted for review. White House officials then decided that 109 episodes had anti-drug messages that qualified for credits under the program.The White House preview covered such popular and profitable hits as ``ER,'' ``Beverly Hills 90210,'' and the ``Drew Carey Show.''Under the agreement, the networks were able to sell the advertising time that would have been used for public service ads for an estimated $22 million, Levitt said.Despite the government's incentive program, Levitt insisted that the White House never attempted to regulate content or to tell the show's writers what they had to put in the programs.However, he said that to avoid any ``suggestion of federal interference in the creative process,'' the White House anti-drug office will change its policy and will review programs only after they have aired.``We won't provide guidance on whether a script will qualify for credits while the writers are still working it,'' he said.Levitt also urged members of Congress -- some of whom have called for an end to the credit program -- to keep the campaign alive. He said the behavior of television characters has more influence over young people than paid advertisements.``Ask any anti-drug lobby group what they'd rather have, ads or programming, and 10 out of 10 will pick programming,'' he said. details of the program became public last week, McCaffrey insisted that his office had done nothing wrong.McCaffrey has defended the script-preview program, saying, ``What we're doing is in accordance with the law.''Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, R-Colo., chairman of the Senate panel, said the issue was not whether the campaign has been effective, but whether the White House was influencing the content of television shows.``(The White House anti-drug office) has set a dangerous precedent,'' Campbell said. ``You're on thin ice dealing with a program's content, whether it's intentional or not.''Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., agreed, saying that the campaign raises ``serious questions'' about the government's role in television programming.``I wouldn't be disappointed if TV gave a better message, but I get nervous when I learn that a government agency is involved,'' he said.Campbell said Congress will continue investigating the extent of White House influence over television programming and will consider ways to ensure it does not continue.``We're going to be giving you some very clear and concise direction to make sure there is no government role in the writing of shows, and I warn you, that direction may come in the form of reduced funding,'' he said.Published: Friday, February 4, 2000 1999 PioneerPlanet - St. Paul (Minnesota) Pioneer PressRelated Articles:VH1, ESPN Are Also Drug Office Beneficiaries - 2/04/2000 Concerned Over Anti-Drug Ad Deal - 2/03/2000 Must See Television, Propaganda - 1/28/2000
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Comment #3 posted by Elliot Fleener on February 07, 2000 at 02:13:07 PT:
             Media Awareness Project          US CA: LTE: Drug Czar Backs TV Effort    Pubdate: Wed, 02 Feb 2000   Source: San Francisco Examiner (CA)   Author: Barry R. McCaffrey       The government and TV networks are not involved in secret   collusion. The Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign is a matter of   public law and has been conducted openly, including multiple   congressional hearings, extensive news coverage, public events   with the president and a Website ( accessed   446,596 times in 1999.   Congress sensibly  requires media outlets  to match federal   anti-drug advertising dollars on a one-for-one basis. Networks,   magazines and newspapers may elect to make this match with   content,  public-service  activities  or  free  advertising.   We take seriously concerns about the campaign's pro-bono match   procedures. There can be no suggestion of federal interference in   the creative process. In the future we will review programs for   pro-bono match  consideration only  after they  have aired.   Congress has wisely allowed the Office of National Drug Control   Policy to fashion anti-drug messages in television programming.   We fulfill this mandate by making available expert scientific   advice and technical assistance through a Behavior Change Expert   Panel and the National Institute on Drug Abuse.  Since illegal   drugs cost this country more than $100 billion and 52,000 deaths a   year, this media campaign addresses a vital issue of public   health.   We are enormously proud of our hundreds of media partnerships.   Drug use by America's youth declined 13 percent between 1997 and   1998. We are convinced that if we continue to emphasize drug   prevention,  juvenile  drug-use  rates  will  drop  further.   Barry R. McCaffrey   Director   Office of National Drug Control Policy   Washington, D.C.GOOD GRIEF!!!......GREAT SCOTT!!......WHAT IS GOING ON!!!??? I could not resist responding with my opinion,,after reading;"DRUG CZAR BACKS TV EFFORT",from the San Fracisco Examiner,02/02/00,by Barry R. McCaffrey,,concerning the government paying the media,to broadcast and print its' drug propaganda. This is absolutely bizzarre and outlandish! The Natzi-esque manner in which all this is supposedly justified,is truly chilling.He makes it sound as if the American people wanted the government to pay millions of tax dollars to the mega-rich,corporate owned media,for the use of what is supposed to be PUBLICLY OWNED AIRWAVES! This is prepostorous!!THIS IS GHASTLY!!..This is another tumor,in the cancer,that the "war on drugs",has infested and infected our supposed democracy with. The new "evil empire",is trying to pass this off as "normal",as if "the American people" were fully aware of all this,and approved of it. How did America end up with a "CZAR" anyway???Is this normal?? Or perhaps I'm just over reacting.After all,what's the harm in spending millions of dollars "to save our youth".I imagine most American taxpayers,if asked to vote on the subject,would totally approve of the 18 BILLION DOLLARS,that is dumped into "The war on drugs",,and would be in favor,of paying millions to the multinationally owned media,for drug war propaganda. If the Federal government is going to use millions of tax dollars,to pay the media,to propagate support for the,"War on drugs",then it would be reasonable to assume,that since the airwaves are "publicly owned",and all this money,is from taxes paid by all the American people;that equal time and money should be allotted for opposing points of view.This is about as likely as congress voting "nay",to raising thier pay. Maybe it's just me.Perhaps everything is just fine,and normal,,,and everyone else thinks all this is a good and proper thing,,and only in the interest of all good and normal Americans,,and of course,,"the children". It's like some strange episode of The Twilight Zone,,or The Outer Limits,and I'm the only one who thinks all this is an aboration,and of course,the show ends with the SWAT team,bashing down my door,and takes me away,locking me up with several million other permanent residents of the gulag. Come to think of it,,I guess maybe I over reacted....Never mind....Everythings just fine.Sorry Mr. McCaffrey,hope I didn't say too Eliott Fleener,,,who is a fellow,at The Astonishment Foundation    
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Comment #2 posted by Doctor Dave on February 04, 2000 at 19:52:53 PT
I'm Ready
So does that mean NORML can pay these networks to incorporate pro-pot messages in their programming now? If they do, will the networks disclose this information? Will NORML? Where does all of this lead?Doctor Dave"A nation that makes war on huge numbers of its own people can never truly be free."
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Comment #1 posted by Dave in Florida on February 04, 2000 at 15:41:36 PT
- An aide to White House drug czar Barry McCaffrey denied Thursday that administration officials have pressured TV networks to include anti-drug messages in TV programs, but vowed to continue offering financial incentives for the networks to do so.Drug Bizzaro McGaffery can call it what he wants but it sounds like bribery to me. 
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