Tuesday, March 16, 2004

hmm... so not only did bushco lie in order to pass the recent medicare bill, but they demanded that other govt employees also lie? check out the lead from
this editorial in the sf chronicle

AFTER FIRST covering up and then misrepresenting the facts about the new Medicare prescription drug benefit, the Bush administration is now shamelessly working to further mislead the public by staging phony "news reports" about how well the law will work.

Last November, during the heat of the congressional debate on the law, the White House reportedly threatened to fire a top Medicare official if he told the truth about the cost of what President Bush described as a $400 billion Medicare bill.

uh, what? but wait, it gets juicier:

In order to sell the complicated and skimpy plan to seniors, the Department of Health and Human Services is paying actors to pose as journalists in bogus TV "news'' reports. Videos have been sent to TV stations, along with government-prepared scripts for news anchors to read. The idea is to make propaganda appear to be unbiased news during prime-time viewing.

It's a covert effort to exploit both the press and public. Coupled with the misinformation about the bill, it paints an alarming picture of a White House unconstrained about using deceit.

tasty. but the wording suggests that nobody at the chronicle has ever heard of a VNR (video news release) before. VNRs are actually extremely common in television "news"; they're basically the video equivalent of a press release, & they are routinely passed on by "news" outlets as though they are news rather than mere public relations.

indeed, here are some things the nytimes has to say:

"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."

i definitely agree with the democrats, but to a certain extent i agree with keane too: VNRs are a "common, routine practice in government and the private sector". & people (hell, everyone who watches tv) should definitely "do some research on modern public information tools"... because anyone with even a sliver of ethical conviction will see what a disgusting fraud VNRs are. but here's more background from the nytimes:

"Video news releases" have been used for more than a decade. Pharmaceutical companies have done particularly well with them, producing news-style health features about the afflictions their drugs are meant to cure.

The videos became more prominent in the late 1980's, as more and more television stations cut news-gathering budgets and were glad to have packaged news bits to call their own, even if they were prepared by corporations seeking to sell products.

As such, the videos have drawn criticism from some news media ethicists, who consider them to be at odds with journalism's mission to verify independently the claims of corporations and governments.

Government agencies have also produced such videos for years, often on subjects like teenage smoking and the dangers of using steroids. But the Medicare materials wander into more controversial territory.

i hope this story shines some light on the deceitful practices of VNRs, since it seems the average person doesn't know about them. alas, i don't actually expect the story to get far before everyone starts to ignore it.

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