Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Poll: Americans Disagree With Bush on Undisclosed Propaganda

A recently released poll found that eight out of 10 viewers would not be turned off by government propaganda, if it was disclosed as such.

The poll, conducted by video news release (VNR) distributor D S Simon Productions, flies in the face of those -- in the Bush administration as well as in the public relations community -- who oppose such disclosure.


Bush has offered three opinions on the use of undisclosed propaganda since the beginning of this year.

-- First he was against it. "Our agenda ought to be able to stand on its own two feet."

-- Then he was for it. "There is a Justice Department opinion that says these pieces are OK so long as they're based upon facts, not advocacy." (Amazingly, Bush was suggesting that government propaganda was not "advocacy" -- as if his administration would create propaganda that opposed administration policy.)

-- Then he favored passing the buck. "(I)t's incumbent upon people who use them to say, this news clip was produced by the federal government." Officially, the Bush Administration continues to take the ludicrous stance that VNRs "based upon facts, not advocacy" don't have to be identified.

The public relations community, not surprisingly, sided with Bush's third opinion. "Disclosure to the public is ultimately the responsibility of broadcasters," Judith Turner Phair, president and CEO of the Public Relations Society of America, said in testimony to a Senate committee panel last month.


But according to the poll, first reported by Broadcasting & Cable on June 13, Americans don't mind knowing where propaganda comes from.

The phone poll of 1,000 respondents found that 42% would be more likely to watch a VNR that was disclosed, while 39% would not be affected one way or the other. Just 16% said they would be less likely to watch.

“If news directors or TV producers fear using or disclosing third-party video to viewers, the survey indicates that disclosing the source of footage could actually boost ratings, not threaten them,” Douglas Simon, President of D S Simon, told the magazine.


The Bush Administration and the public relations industry are fighting critics, including the non-partsan Government Accountability Office, who are backing the "Truth in Broadcasting Act," authored by Sens. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and John Kerry (D-MA).

That legislation, introduced April 28, would establish permanent federal law that VNRs and other prepackaged propaganda would include a disclaimer that would run continuously throughout the pieces.

Unfortunately, since the Senate committee hearing last month, no action has been taken on the legislation.


Blogger Tom Carter said...

The term "propaganda" has negative implications, and it would be better to avoid it. Every U.S. administration, Democratic and Republican, engages in public information activities, and of course they try to present their policies in a positive light. I don't see anything wrong with it as long as it's identified as being provided by the government. I don't know that the identification should run continuously through the piece; people are smart enough to remember the opening and closing segments.

8:46 AM  

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