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Kerry, Lautenberg Secure Hearing and Mark-Up on Fake News

Location: Washington, DC

Kerry, Lautenberg Secure Hearing and Mark-Up on Fake News

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Washington, D.C. - In response to a push by Senators John Kerry (D-Mass.), Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) to require every prepackaged "video news release" paid for by the federal government at taxpayer expense to run a disclaimer, Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) today agreed to schedule a mark-up on the legislation.

The proposal, which would require the disclaimer to run continuously throughout the news story and prohibit its removal from the segment, was first offered to the Junk Fax Bill in the Senate Commerce Committee this morning. In response, Chairman Ted Stevens, along with Co-Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), offered to hold a hearing and mark-up as early as next week on the legislation. Senators Kerry and Lautenberg accepted that offer.

"In the greatest democracy in the world, the government shouldn't be writing and paying for the news. It runs counter to everything we believe in. It's unfortunate we even have to introduce legislation to stop any administration from doing this. In a time of record-budget deficits, American taxpayers have a right to know not only that they're watching fake newscasts, but they paid for them. It's one thing to watch Jon Stewart on television. It's another to imitate him with Americans' hard-earned tax dollars," Kerry said. "I am very grateful to Chairman Stevens for giving us the opportunity to address this abuse of the public trust and waste of taxpayer dollars."

"The administration's propaganda mill needs to be shut down. The government's policies should be strong enough to stand on its own legs, without the help of fake news stories. The administration should get out of the fake news business, and leave that task to Jon Stewart. I am hopeful our legislation will pass Congress quickly," Senator Lautenberg said.

"I applaud the decision to schedule the hearing. Self-government and democracy depend on citizens receiving real news, not fake news, and real information, not propaganda. That line has clearly been crossed recently. I welcome Senator Stevens' decision to have the committee explore this issue and act to correct the problem," said Senator Dorgan.

Many federal agencies have used taxpayer money to produce and distribute "video news releases" promoting one-sided policy views of both Republican and Democratic administrations' initiatives. These video news releases have run - undisclosed - on several television news stations on topics ranging from the war in Iraq to the administration's Medicare prescription drug reform plan. At least 20 federal agencies, including the Department of Defense, have made and distributed hundreds of television news segments over the past four years. Many were broadcast on local television news programs across the country without any acknowledgement of the government's role in their production.

Late last night, in response to a letter sent by Senator Kerry and communications from Stevens and Inouye, the FCC announced a review of the matter. But in that notice FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein made clear that "these issues are for the Administration and Congress to resolve. The Commission's role is limited to ensuring that broadcast stations and others identify sponsors when required to do so."

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