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Kerry, Lautenberg Introduce Legislation to Stop Taxpayer-Funded Fake News Hearing on Bill Set for Early May

Location: Washington, DC

Kerry, Lautenberg Introduce Legislation to Stop Taxpayer-Funded Fake News Hearing on Bill Set for Early May

WASHINGTON, DC - Today, Senators Frank R. Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) introduced legislation to address "covert propaganda" produced by the government. The legislation would require all "prepackaged news stories," or video news releases, produced by the Administration to contain a disclosure of the source of the material.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has ruled that the Bush Administration's use of "prepackaged news stories" was illegal "covert propaganda" because the government's role was not disclosed to viewers. On March 11, 2005, the Office of Management and Budget and the Department of Justice issued memos to all executive branch agencies ordering them to ignore the GAO ruling and gave the green light to further use of fake news stories that hide the government's role in their production. The Lautenberg-Kerry Truth in Broadcasting Act would follow the legal ruling of the GAO and establish permanent federal law that prepackaged news stories by the government must disclose the government's role with a disclaimer. The disclaimer would run continuously throughout the "news story."

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens has committed to holding a hearing and a markup on the bill in early May.

"I am really looking forward to the hearing on our bill. The American people deserve to know that they're not just watching the administration's spin on their local newscasts -- they're paying for it, too. It's one thing to watch Jon Stewart on television. It's another to imitate him with Americans' hard-earned tax dollars. In a time of record-budget deficits, we need to address this abuse of the public trust and waste of money," said Kerry.

"Our government should not be in the business of fooling the public with fake news stories," said Lautenberg. "If President Bush wants to promote his views, he can do that, but he should not hide behind fake reporters to get his message out. The President already has the 'Bully Pulpit' - he shouldn't need to use puppets pretending to be reporters."

Lautenberg and Kerry introduced similar legislation as an amendment to a bill before the Senate Commerce Committee on April 14. The Senators withdrew their amendment in exchange for Chairman Ted Stevens' (R-Alaska) commitment to hold a hearing and mark-up on the legislation.

These fake news stories have run -- undisclosed -- on several television news stations on a number of topics including the Medicare prescription drug law and to promote the President's "No Child Left Behind Act." At least 20 federal agencies have made and distributed hundreds of television news segments over the past four years.

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