Gov’t Produced Video News Releases Violate Law

by Sabrina I. Pacifici on May 12, 2005

Video News Releases (VNRs): Unattributed Prepackaged News Stories Violate Publicity or Propaganda Prohibition – Statement of Susan A. Poling, Managing Associate General Counsel (GAO), to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, GAO-05-643T, May 12, 2005 Highlights:

  • “In two legal opinions this past year, federal agencies commissioned and distributed prepackaged news stories and introductory scripts about their activities that were designed to be indistinguishable from news stories produced by private news broadcasters. In neither case did the agency include any statement or other indication in its news stories that disclosed to the television viewing audience, the target audience of the purported news stories, that the agency wrote and produced those news stories. In other words, television-viewing audiences did not know that stories they watched on television news programs about the government were, in fact, prepared by the government. GAO concluded that those prepackaged news stories violated the publicity or propaganda prohibition.”
  • Related references:

  • Comptroller General Circular on Prepackaged News Stories, B-304272, February 17, 2005
  • Previous beSpacific postings on VNRs
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