Public Relations Industry Influences to Alter Anti-Propaganda Bill

"Myself and others felt violated by the first bill," said Doug Simon, the founder, president and CEO of D S Simon Productions, a major producer of the faux television news reports known as video news releases (VNRs).

Simon was referring to the Truth in Broadcasting Act (S 967). In its original incarnation, this bill would have required a "conspicuous" disclosure to accompany any government-produced or -funded prepackaged VNR or the radio equivalent, an audio news release (ANR). For VNRs, the Act rightly mandated "continuous" on-screen notification of the material’s source, such as the words "Produced by the U.S. Government." Moreover, the Act made it illegal to remove the disclosure.

First, the revised Act drops the continuous on-screen notification requirement for VNRs. Second, it calls for "clear notification within the text or audio of the prepackaged news story," without specifying the minimum requirements for audience disclosure. Most troubling, it allows that disclosure to be removed altogether, following rules that the Act requires the Federal Communications Commission to develop.

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