Posted by John Stauber on March 16, 2005

This afternoon I listened in on a conference call among some of the top PR execs in the business of producing video news releases (VNRs), more honestly called fake news. I can report they are proud and confident that the recent "flap" on the front page of Sunday's New York Times about the Bush administration's use of fake news will amount to nothing at all. These PR executives are elated that the New York Times piece was about government propaganda, and not about their much more widespread and lucrative production of corporate VNRs, the biggest and richest part of the fake news business.

The conference call was arranged by PR trade press maven Jack O'Dwyer. It featured top PR executives in the fake news business, including Doug Simon of D S Simon Productions, Stan Zeitlin of West Glen Communications, Larry Moskowitz of Medialink Worldwide and KEF Media's Kevin Foley. These are the companies that are producing and distributing the thousands of VNRs sent to TV networks and stations each year. The VNRs are fake news stories, paid for by clients ranging from the Pentagon to Monsanto, that are aired by TV news producers as if they were independent reporting and the work of real journalists, rather than PR operatives who used to be real journalists.

The real journalists at the TV networks and stations are engaging in fraud and plagiarism on a massive scale when they pawn off these VNRs as real news. If you were a journalism student with an assignment to produce a TV news story, and your professor discovered that someone else had done all your work for you and given the story to you to pass off as your own, you should be expelled. But in the real world of TV journalism, you would just collect your paycheck and go home.

There is also payola involved. Money flows from the VNR producing PR firms to the TV networks for "distribution costs," and the networks send the VNRs out to their affiliates for use on the air.

Listening to the PR executives today was both amusing and infuriating. These fellows are whistling past the graveyard, assuring themselves that this all is no big deal. There was no hint of shame, certainly no apologizing, just apparent disdain for having their business practices dissected on the front page of the New York Times. They are proud of their work.

Frankly, why would these PR execs worry? In the eleven years that our organization has been exposing fake news, the New York Times article is the first major mainstream coverage that I can recall. This "flap" could simply dissipate. It might even publicize and promote the fake news industry resulting in more business for these PR firms. Rob Zaleski of Madison, Wisconsin's Capital Times, interviewed me about this for his column today. Here is part of his report:

"The Times article just confirms everything we've found [said Stauber], including the fact that when you actually go out and confront TV news producers and news directors on their use of video news releases, they'll deny it. And you don't know if they're lying or they're honestly ignorant, because now, as the article points out, this stuff is fed through the networks."

Question is, will the Times' expose be a turning point? Or, once the controversy dies down, will TV stations merely revert to their old habits?

"I think it could be either," Stauber says. "The New York Times is still the paper of record. And when they give something this much play, it has an impact.

"But it could be just a little blip and we're not going to see another major story about this for another decade. Certainly the TV media aren't going to go anywhere near this, because it's a story of the corruption of TV in particular."

However, Stauber says there are definite indications that the public's disgust with the Bush administration is growing. And he thinks there's an opportunity now - thanks in part to the Times article - to pressure Congress and the Federal Communications Commission to toughen and enforce laws against "covert propaganda" and demand that broadcasters "come clean with viewers about using government-produced news."

To that end, Stauber says his group has joined with the nonpartisan public interest group Free Press in an effort to gather 250,000 signatures on petitions aimed at stopping such deplorable tactics. "Unless we act now," he says, "the White House will continue to act with impunity - taking advantage of understaffed and incautious local news operations to manipulate public opinion."

Stauber, by the way, says that he too is amazed that the Bush administration doesn't seem the least bit embarrassed by all the revelations of the last few months. Then again, "at this point, who would they be accountable to?" he says with a laugh. "We haven't really seen a high level of accountability within the administration on a single issue. I mean, who's walked the plank on anything?"

Comments

The following transcript of the March 16 phone conference was posted on the [http://www.odwyerpr.com/members/0317vnr_new_standards_transcript.htm|O'Dwyer's news website] (reg. req'd.):

JACK O'DWYER (Moderator): Welcome to the second O'Dwyer's teleconference on important issues. This is a highly political charged issue, as VNR executives have already told us. The New York Times has now done two lengthy features that are highly negative to the PR industry and is conducting a campaign against the Bush administration's use of TV to get its viewpoints across.

And if you ask me, we can expect a lot more from The New York Times; this is just the two opening salvos. So the purpose of this teleconference is to ask: What can the industry do about this torrent of negative publicity?

Now, I'll let Kevin introduce the editors.

KEVIN MCCAULEY(Moderator): OK. Welcome everybody. We all know that the great debate about the identification of video news releases is not really a new one, but it certainly is a raging issue as evidenced by the lead editorial in today's New York Times about so-called "counterfeit news."

Now, we assembled a panel of video industry experts to discuss the attack on VNRs or pre-packaged news, as The Times refers to them. So, each will make an opening statement, and then we will open the conference to all listeners.

Panel members in order of appearance are: Stan Zeitlin of WestGlen; Larry Moskowitz of Medialink; Pete Wengryn of VMS; Doug Simon of DS Simon Productions; Kevin Foley KEF Media Associates; Dan Johnson of DWJ.

Stan, you want to begin?

Mr. STAN ZEITLIN (WestGlen): Thank you. It was interesting to see the story that you moved today that Senator Kerry is asking the FCC to investigate, the Bush administration's use of so-called "pre-packaged news" reports.

When I got into the information business in the early '60s, I was a producer at CBS News-film, the predecessor of VNR's. And we used to get materials from the Defense Department about Green Berets who were going into Vietnam as advisors; this is in the early to mid-'60s. This is during the Kennedy administration, a Democratic administration, and the Johnson administration, also Democratic. So we know that this tactic of government providing footage for television news goes back many, many, many years.

But, you know, VNR's and b-rolls are really a small part of what television news uses from corporate sponsors. We see press conferences with backdrops and mottos and catchy words done by all kinds of organizations, including the White House. We have satellite media crews. We have press releases galore. We have people coming on shows and being interviewed. And yet, for some reason, The Times has chosen this particular tactic as something that they want to put under a specific attack.

And also--it was interesting in The Times story on Sunday about the Executive Branch is at war with the Congressional Branch by saying that the GAO's did--does not really pertain to so-called legitimate news versus propaganda.

And, you know, when the Health and Human Services Administration is taken to task for the Medicare flap, nobody seems to be concerned when the CDC, a part of HHS, is putting out a tremendous amount of excellent information on illnesses and threats to the nation's health.

You know, I'm trying to put a positive spin on it. And the only--the one thing that I can think of is that because The Times has taken such a position against VNRs they're obviously of great value to those people who do them. And I think everybody else on this panel will agree with me.

KEVIN: Thank you, Stan. Larry, are you there?

KEVIN: OK, Larry you make an opening statement on the VNR issue.

Mr. MOSKOWITZ: OK. Well, my view is--has been consistent with everything I've written, that the government in particular--well, let's back up a minute. I saw this story work and I learned of it about two months ago. And I called David Barstow on a Friday night and spent two hours with him trying to explain the history of the industry.

If it didn't fit, he didn't want to listen. If it fit, he was all ears; did not like context, did not like history, did not like rationale. And the bottom line that I gave him I've been consistent with, which is that the government has a responsibility to advise, educate, inform and warn the public and that it has every right to communicate as any other entity would.

That is kind of backing up into this story--this story is clearly a political story and it's played out in clearly a political way. I was invited on NPR to "Talk of the Nation" yesterday. And I've been interviewed by everything from Slate to salon.com in the last 24 hours. I'm kind of bleary-eyed from the number of calls that I've been fielding.

And--ironically, a couple of them recommended by Karen Ryan. But the key points that I've been making have been this responsibility of the government to communicate, the duty to communicate and the--and the public's right to know.

We've also taken the view that the GAO has asked for a set of suspenders and two belts; and we have no issue with that. So I really don't believe that we, or the industry, should enter the fray between the Justice Department and the GAO. We've had private discussions with former GAO officials. We've had private discussions up on The Hill. And we've had private discussions with the White House. And the view is--that we've taken is to not enter that fray, to just say whatever the highest standard is we're happy to meet.

That clarity--the clarity of that standard, however, is far from there. It's quite murky. Does this mean a slate consistently on every frame? Does this mean a bug, which would be absolutely ridiculous? And if the industry drops that, I think we've got some serious functional issues. Or does it mean a proper sign-off? And I don't think this is clear, everyone is taking their own interpretation.

But the ultimate line is that I think that we should all be speaking in unison is this responsibility to tell, the public's right to know and who our print journalists, all of a sudden, assume that this is something different than what I'm sure we all agree is nothing different from the written press release. That finally that this has been an age-old practice that we clearly date back to Movietone news, certainly the Eisenhower administration, certainly the Kennedy administration.

And I believe, from our experience, we did work--more work under the Clinton administration than we have under the Bush administration. So it's nothing new, it's clearly disclosed; none of these instances rose at ONDCP nor at HHS failed the basic tests that we've all lived under, which is textural notification of both the advisory as well as on the slate.

So I think to go beyond that is practically--is not necessarily sensible. But if the GAO says there should be some internal identification we believe that that's--that is what we should advise our government clients. But we would not send something as long as it met the two-standard tests.

KEVIN: Thank you, Larry. Peter Wengryn?

PETER WENGRYN (VMS): Yes, I'm Pete Wengryn, the CEO of Video Monitoring Services of America. We were sourced, actually, in The Times article. And VMS, just for those of you that don't know, we monitor and record news broadcasts in the top 150 markets, and that's about 65,000 hours of news coverage per month.

Regarding the article--a few things, first of all, the American public is being bombarded with information from a multiple of sources from all sides of the political spectrum. When we elect government officials we elect them for their leadership and their policies. We're entitled to know what they say on public matters and what their positions are.

So first, I think it's the government's right--in fact, I think it's their responsibility to disseminate important information in a detailed way to the public. Thirty-second sound bites are simply not sufficient to get the depth of information in the hands of the American public.

One of the many ways that they can do this is by holding press conferences, issuing print news releases or by distributing VNRs, which is an effective way to present a viewpoint to the public.

Second, I believe that it's the duty of the broadcasters to evaluate all the information they received from various sources, identify footage appropriately and present a fair and balanced story to their viewers.

And most importantly I believe that the onus is really on the viewing public, the American people, to consider all the information that's being presented to them to evaluate the merits of each and to make informed decisions. And the role of VMS is that we can help anyone understand on any issue what is being said, how it's being said and how widely that message is being distributed and the impact of that message and what it's having on the public. That's my position.

KEVIN: Thank you, Pete.

Mr. WENGRYN: Thank you.

KEVIN: Doug Simon, DS Simon Productions.

Mr. DOUG SIMON (DS Simon Productions): Thanks, Kevin. I'd like to start sort of on a personal note that's interesting. It's when I started in this business more than 20 years ago, one of my big challenges was explaining to people what it was that I did for a living; and that was just to my family.

So now it's sort of a nice feeling to see us actually above the fold in The New York Times. But I think that's something that the public relations community has to deal with.

One issue is that how much of what we do will be governed by a pretty arcane law that comes from 1951, which reads 'No part of any appropriation contained in this or any other act shall be used for publicity or propaganda purposes within the United States not heretofore authorized by Congress.' Now that's for lawmakers to decide; obviously, we all have our own opinion.

But the challenge is, you know, what can PR do to protect our interests and defend itself? And one of the things I think we need to acknowledge is that there's--while we don't like the point of view of The Times article there's much in the actual specific reporting that is accurate. And we have to realize that over-reaches will invite scrutiny. And the problem that I think we're all dealing with is that legitimate practices that we do are getting thrown into the same pool as the illegitimate ones. So what do we do about that to protect our interests?

I feel very strongly that blaming the media is a very bad idea. Obviously we rely on them for what we do and work with them. hat we need to do is clarify that what we do is not fake or "counterfeit news;" it's paid advocacy. And along those lines, I think we need to support the media's right to handle the reporting and the information they receive in whatever manner they say--see fit, basically supporting the idea of a free press in supporting our own interests.

KEVIN: Thank you, Doug. Kevin Foley, KEF Media.

Mr. KEVIN FOLEY (KEF Media): Thanks, Kevin. I think the telling event so far in this has been Kerry's letter to the FCC Chairman, because it brings a component into the mix that wasn't there up till now and that's the FCC.

And I've been thinking a lot about the present administration's use of video news releases. And by the way, they've done a masterful job of using public relations publicity to advance their various agendas--VNRs being one of those tools. But now that the FCC has been contacted by Senator Kerry and asked to look into why it is that rules are not being enforced at the TV station level by identifying what this is and where it's coming from is very important.

And I begun to think that perhaps there's a certain amount of let's say covert pressure being put on TV stations to air a lot of this stuff that's coming from the White House and other political sources, because they know the FCC is a very activist FCC.

So the fact that it's not identified, the fact that it's not clearly tagged as coming from the United States government or the Bush administration, or the Health and Human Services, all that aside, it's finding its way on. And I'm wondering if there isn't some, like I say, pressure being felt by stations to air this material and put it on without identifying where it's coming from or what it is; just a thought I had.

KEVIN: Thank you, Kevin. Now we go to Dan Johnson, DWJ.

Mr. DAN JOHNSON (DWJ): What surprised me about the New York Times article is that it appeared to be so comprehensive, but it never mentioned the whole CNN controversy of last year. And actually I have a feeling that--

Mr. JOHNSON: Hello?

KEVIN: Yeah, still here, Dan.

Mr. JOHNSON: OK. I was just hearing somebody else there. Anyway, that The Times did do some articles, I think, a year and a half ago--I know at least some other publications did--that made it very clear for a long time, CNN was taking video news releases and not really doing a front-level job of identifying them as being video news releases.

And I think that a lot of these instances that they're coming up with happened during that timeframe. That said, certainly the government has not just a right, but an obligation to get information out there. It should be clearly identified. The question is how? It shouldn't be something you have to look for as a producer.

I don't think it's our job nor is there any way we could impose any kind of condition on a TV news producer. We feed something to them. We tell them who are source is and then they're supposed to do with it as they would with any other news material. They're the gatekeeper.

Mr. SIMON: And Dan, this is Doug Simon. The original Times article, they did reference CNN, that they do the releases. But they didn't reference that there was a period where they didn't identify them as corporate material.

Mr. JOHNSON: There was about a two-year period...

Mr. SIMON: Yeah.

Mr. JOHNSON: ...which overlaps a lot of the HHS controversy where they were not identifying them in a way in which a typical producer would find it easy to find out.

KEVIN: What about--what about Kevin Foley's point about covert pressure being brought forth on stations to air these things? Does anybody buy that?

Mr. MOSKOWITZ: I think it's preposterous.

Mr. JOHNSON: I think if it were--if there were any kind of pressure happening, we would have heard about it.

Mr. MOSKOWITZ: Yeah, I mean my view is that having seen this story kind of evolve and hearing a lot of the federal agencies speaking to me after they spoke to Barstow this is a totally political story.

He failed to mention, other than in slight passing, that Clinton--and as I said, we did far more work under Clinton than under Bush.

And so, I think this thing was a political agenda that I know that from our discussions with clients and, by the way, a few stations--and I will also point out that the only real reaction other than a bunch of journalists calling me is that we got three leads for jobs out of it, which is the good news--is that the story was viewed by anybody who was aware and a lot of glazed eyes, by the way, as a political story, that we believe that's where the story resides.

It's now kind of moved from the government, to a degree, to the stations. But the best news, I think, is really the issue is completely revolving around identification.

Mr. FOLEY: Well, the FCC is watching TV stations like never before. And TV stations know that, Larry.

Mr. MOSKOWITZ: Well with Kevin--

Mr. FOLEY: Let me finish. Let me finish.

Mr. MOSKOWITZ: Yeah.

Mr. FOLEY: I think the FCC is very clearly--let it be known that they're watching. And they're watching for all kinds of transgressions. And, you know, I feel like there doesn't have to be a letter that goes out to the TV stations. But when this material comes in and then suddenly finds its way on the air without being identified or balanced, or in any way cushioned before it gets to the viewer and--then some--you know, I just told you it was a feeling, Larry. I didn't say I had any empirical evidence to back it up. It's just a sense I get that there is perhaps some pressure being felt by stations that when this stuff comes in, you know, a good journalist is gonna see it's one-sided very quickly, and so do we put it on the air or not, you know? I don't know.

Mr. SIMON: And I think your point and Larry's point--I don't think that stations are necessarily making a conscious decision. I don't think there's any actual over-pressure from the government.

Mr. FOLEY: No, not at all.

Mr. SIMON: Because that would be too risky. Whether some might be putting pressure on themselves, who knows? I think the one thing that it does is put to light the assumption that there's a complete liberal media out there. And there are a lot of people that didn't see what was put out.

You know, 51-plus percent agreed with the tone of what was in that Medicare VNR, 48 percent didn't agree with it. So if you're looking at this as a political issue, you know, people at stations have lots of different viewpoints as well. I believe the stations are putting stuff on based on what they see as news their viewers want to have that they should deliver to them that'll help them get ratings. And that's really what they focus on.

Mr. MOSKOWITZ: Well, can I ask a question to the group? Have you had any effect--has there been any stated effect from either your clients or from stations as a result of this?

Mr. JOHNSON: Dan, at DWJ. No. In fact, I have--and we--we've been talking to stations on a number of things since The Times article broke. I wonder how many line producers even saw the article. Certainly we've gotten no comments.

It reminds me, I think it was probably about ten years ago, there was a big controversy about video news releases and there was a big session at RTNDA. And for a while there, there was some kind of slight resistance against VNRs. I think now, if anything, the focus is more on the government and the difference between information and propaganda.

Mr. SIMON: And we have not seen any feedback from stations about it. While we did see some changes initially after the Karen Ryan story got so much exposure, we had a number of reporters, broadcasters, producers, who said to us that they're being told from higher-ups not to air stuff. But we haven't heard any of that yet. But again, this story is just breaking. So who knows what next week will bring?

Mr. FOLEY: Here at KEF we haven't really run into any sort of resistance from the media with regard to this particular story. I think you're right, Larry, it's purely political. It plays out in a political arena not so much in the day-to-day, work-a-day world that we're in, where we're promoting various services, products, people, whatever.

Mr. JOHNSON: Yeah, and--

Mr. FOLEY: No, I don't think that's an issue.

Mr. JOHNSON: And Doug hit the point. I mean when the Karen Ryan/CNN Controversy was around we did get comments; we did see a dip in usages. I mean that had some impact; this certainly hasn't so far, and I'd be surprised if it did.

Mr. MOSKOWITZ: For those of you who, kind of, remember, I--we too, back in the '91-'92 flap, when fake news was the cover of TV Guide, when that print journalist discovered VNRs--this is kind of like people walking into a big building that's labeled casino and being shocked to find out there's gambling going in there--that we felt that then we did not feel it, after the Karen Ryan flap, and we are not seeing any evidence now.

And I would agree with whoever was mentioning it. It just seems to be flying well over or well passed the work-a-day line producers. We haven't--and we've been asking them; and they don't know what we're talking about.

Mr. ZEITLIN: It's interesting that President Bush commented on the controversy today at his press conference.

Mr. MOSKOWITZ: Yes, and by the way, just only moments ago the nomination of the FCC, of a close Bush ally, Kevin Martin, to be new head of the Federal Communications Commission. So I don't think that that kind of administration is going to be too aggressive fighting the Bush administration, the Justice Department and the Office of Management and Budget.

KEVIN: OK, can we open it up to listeners? Anybody out there want to comment on the situation?

Mr. DAVID BERNKOPF (America Communications): Yeah, this is David Bernkopf at America Communications.

KEVIN: Welcome, David.

Mr. BERNKOPF: I have a couple of questions. One is we don't do VNRs and never have, but I'm curious--two questions. First, what is the purpose of putting together a VNR package that looks like a news piece that is not clearly labeled other than to hide it within the credibility of a newscast which is, to me, a basic dishonesty?

Secondly, where are these packages? I'm not talking about someone pulling a bite or a VO; where are these packages airing in major markets? I never see them.

Mr. SIMON: This is Doug Simon. I can address your questions, David. I think the key point is not labeling them. And the reason why this conversation may be less interesting than others is everyone on this phone participating does label and we do that--forget whether ethics, right or wrong, we know it's good business, because we're doing advocacy. The stations we work with know that.

So clearly--I mean you're right, if you don't label it and try and hide the origin of where it's from, that's unethical. That shouldn't happen. I mean the material we do we get reports in every city in the country. We've had it on networks; it does air. But for each thing that airs, it does go through the journalists' gate--role as a gatekeeper to get it out there. And it becomes indistinguishable, much as in some cases a printed press release, as Stan Zeitlin pointed out in this article in The New York Times, has to go through scrutiny before it gets incorporated into a news article.

Mr. BERNKOPF: So you're saying that VNR, as a package, does not air period.

Mr. MOSKOWITZ: And I say no--Larry Moskowitz here at Medialink. No, we produce packages, and that's been the industry norm for at least 30 years. And the reason is the TV people think in TV language. And so we create packages that are easily cut. We provide it as a suggested narration. The voice of the narrator is actually provided on a separate audio track so it can easily be split.

So your assertion and your implication, I find is complete defiance of industry norms for 30 years. So they're intended really to be a guide to the journalist to understand what a complex story might be about.

We also--almost typically, all of us on the phone provide additional b-roll, so that it's an erector set for the journalists. They can take additional footage of this, additional footage of that.

Mr. SIMON: And Larry--

Mr. MOSKOWITZ: And if stations use these things, as a small newspaper might use a press release--and I'll tell you I'll find them in full, intact in The New York Times every day of the week and certainly The Wall Street Journal--then it is up to them to do. But we--they're identified. So your aspersion--I think your aspersion is wrong.

Mr. SIMON: Yeah. And Larry, you--

Mr. BERNKOPF: I'm sorry, I'm confused now; you are producing packages, but they're not airing under most cases? Is that--

Mr. MOSKOWITZ: No--

Mr. FOLEY: No, let me answer that question; this is Kevin Foley. There are markets that use them in full as they come in. And they tend frequently to be smaller markets with fewer production resources.

I think what--I think Larry makes a good point, so does Doug, that the notion here is that when we send them through--for example, let's say you do a medical video news release that you've created a package, a 90-second package on it, and in it goes. And it's got visuals and it's got, as Larry said, kind of a guide--guideposts for the journalists. It's up to them to go get the local angle on that to find the local doctor and so forth. In the bigger markets and the medium-size markets are more inclined to go that direction with what we give them.

But, yes, the smaller markets, they'll take it and they'll put it right on as is. And they'll do that because they--as The Times article pointed out--resources are strapped in newsrooms. And that's particularly the case in small and medium-size markets.

Mr. JOHNSON: This is Dan here. I think the analogy to a press release is applicable here too. I mean a PR person doing something for print could get two or three paragraphs of quotes and then put a fact sheet together that sort of had all the information that he was trying to get out and give it to reporters that way.

It would be harder for them to write from that. It wouldn't really be communicating as clearly as a press release does. Essentially that's what we're doing in the world of television. We're create--and in television it's a video press release, so it's got to be done--first of all, it has pictures, but it also has to be done a little differently than you do a press release for print. But it's the same thing.

Mr. BERNKOPF: But then why do it as a package?

Mr. MOSKOWITZ: Yeah, I think he just answered you.

Mr. JOHNSON: Yeah. I just answered you.

Mr. BERNKOPF: I--

Mr. JOHNSON: You do it as a package, because--a press release is a package to print. A video news release--

Mr. BERNKOPF: OK, not in most newsrooms, obviously.

Mr. WENGRYN: This is Pete Wengryn. When--we concur with some of the statements before, where we certainly have seen over the last few days, as I've been doing some research; that the lower markets are more apt to look and display the entire package while the higher markets may use particular segments.

And something I'd also like to throw out there, as news broadcasters are sourcing news, I'm not quite sure what the difference is when a news broadcaster says that they are quoting an anonymous source, which we don't know whether or not that person is biased, pro/against administration on that particular topic. I'm not quite sure what difference that is as far as not sourcing information. That's something you might want to throw out there.

Mr. SIMON: And Pete, this is Doug. One more important point to add for David is every one of us includes phone and e-mail for contact information so the journalists, broadcasters, if they have any questions about the story they can call us up, get put in touch with people, ask whatever tough questions they want to ask and add to the story. It's not like we're doing this and hiding somewhere. It's the normal course of advocacy to get this material.

Mr. BERNKOPF: And I don't mean to offend you guys, because I understand what you're saying. But I don't think you're really disagreeing with what my key point is, which is that the nature of producing a television package, which you hope will air in its entirety is inherently dishonest, because it is trying to convince the public that it is part of the newscast, a journalistic part of the newscast.

Mr. MOSKOWITZ: Well, do you write press releases? Do you write press releases with a date line?

Mr. BERNKOPF: No, and I never, never have seen a press release I've done in its entirety.

Mr. MOSKOWITZ: I think--

Mr. BERNKOPF: That's the difference. If you send out--look, I spent 25 years on the other side. I got plenty of VNRs, plenty of press releases; I never put one on in its entirety. I understand the value of b-roll, of sound bites. I'm talking about the package part of it.

Mr. SIMON: Hey, hey, David. This is Doug. One question I have--and whether we take offense or not, is I think the problem is your underlying assumption is that what we put out is not accurate.

Mr. BERNKOPF: So you're not putting out packages?

Mr. SIMON: We're putting out packages, but what we put out is accurate. I mean--I've at times--I did a project--

Mr. BERNKOPF: But we can all argue for eternity about what's accurate.

Mr. SIMON: Yeah, but if I may finish.

Mr. MOSKOWITZ: I think we should move on, because I think we've got a clear logjam here, where we're just saying that I think the entire industry is in agreement and most of the--90 percent of the PR industry that we put packages together, just as press releases are written. I think Dan was absolutely articulate and correct. I mean this has been going on for 35 years.

And I don't think this is trying to shell anything on anybody and we have respect for the journalists on the other side to make any decision they choose. Can we move on to the next question?

KEVIN: More comments? More listener input?

Mr. JEREMY PEPPER (POP! Public Relations): Hello.

KEVIN: Hello?

Mr. PEPPER: The name's Jeremy Pepper I'm out in Phoenix. The firm's POP! Public Relations.

KEVIN: Hi, Jeremy.

Mr. PEPPER: How are you doing today?

KEVIN: Good.

Mr. PEPPER: I have one local station here that one third of that day is dedicated to news; it's nine-and-a-half hours of news. They don't have that large of a staff. They have to put out news.

And as much transparency as there is, these people need content. And I can sit there watching the story and the data; VNRs roll by, re-edited with their own newscasters. It's not the laziness of the news producers; it has nothing to do with the newscasters. It's just the fact that conglomerates own these local TV stations and they have a limited staff and they have to put up even more news nowadays.

The production of the news packages is nothing different--I have to agree, it's nothing different than just putting out a press release and hoping and wishing that it gets picked up fully; sometimes you're lucky, sometimes you're not.

KEVIN: Thank you, Jeremy.

FOLEY: Yeah, we often say--this is Kevin--we often say that the--you know, news is a combustible commodity. And it's used today and it's gone tomorrow and you need more. And the conglomerates that own these stations now, the Newsgroups, the Gannetts and these others, put enormous bottom line pressure on their general managers, and they're telling them they--they're just not gonna give them the resources they once had.

And so when we send our content out, if it meets, you know, broadcast standards, news standards--it's visual, it's got a sound story--they can evaluate it and decide to put it on or not put it on. Nobody's buying the time, and I think that that has, you know, been a boon to the industry; certainly it's been a boon for us.

KEVIN: Anybody else out there?

Mr. SIMON: Well, if you want to take it a step further. Didn't Sinclair Broadcasting now taking all their local stations and doing it in one studio? Like, weather and sports are done by one person in some studio out in Virginia, I believe, and then they just sort of add the local station talking heads to make them, like, one locally produced station newscast.

Mr. FOLEY: Is it--you mean consolidating their resources?

Mr. SIMON: Right.

Mr. FOLEY: Yeah.

Mr. MOSKOWITZ: Well, I think the industry will speak in one voice here. If we--any of us put out a story that's got--that's compelling and has great pictures, and--anybody who confuses newspaper news with television news hasn't really watched or read either medium.

If we've got the implosion of a building, that's a great picture story. If we--if you try to write a press release about that, I don't think it's going to wind up too many places. So if we've got great, compelling pictures that make viewers want to watch and a news director knows that--or anyone in the news decision making role--and the story has some reason for being, and some value to viewers in some way, shape or form, then it's going to get on the air; and if it doesn't, it doesn't. And most of the packages I know, and I think everyone will also echo this one, that do get on in full are pretty non-contentious.

The packages that we get on are for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety for the crash tests; they're used consistently and in full. And there's very little debate about that; the test is the test. The package is put together, it's professional, it's been going on for 10 years; it makes sense.

Stories that are more complex that are potentially more controversial tend to get edited more. And stories that have lousy video or no real intrinsic news value don't get on the air at all.

KEVIN: Jack has a question about press releases. Jack.

JACK: OK. Having read press releases for 40 years I see a lot of comparison here to VNRs to press releases. But press releases to a reporter are just the start of a story, the bare bones. In a normal press release, you have to start making a lot of calls, and each press release normally has a client contact, the agent contact--today they have cell phones. My idea would be to have three people to have both client and the agency ready to answer questions and have them there, and none of this cell phone stuff or none of this voice mail stuff--but the whole point of PR is interaction and discussion, just like we're having now.

My question is does the normal VNR provide three or four or five different ways for that producer to call up people and get questions answered or be--

Mr. MOSKOWITZ: Absolutely, Jack, because there's more--it's got to be doubly that, because we've also got to include technical information, if they've got issues on that front. So, absolutely--whether we're all putting three or four phone numbers on there, I don't know, but it's usually two and certainly there's interaction. So any notion there's any difference between the written press release and the video press release, I reject totally.

JACK: Very glad to hear that.

Mr. SIMON: And we have 24/7--I'm sure everyone does, where we can get calls at three in the morning if someone is looking at doing something for their local morning news show, and they can get answers on the record.

Mr. FOLEY: Well The Times cites several instances where material was not identified by the television station airing it, or in AgDays case, a syndicated programmer. And, you know, I think that has to be taken with a grain of salt, because those are just a few examples. The air checks we see that come in here, by and large--if they haven't identified it specifically, they've done it, you know, as a voiceover, they've, in some way, let the viewer know that this content came from someplace; it didn't just, you know, it wasn't something they produced themselves.

So, I think the media, by and large, is pretty conscientious about identifying what and where things come from.

Mr. SIMON: Our experience has been very different; I would say fewer than 10 percent of the pieces we get back have some sort of identification. Even though we put that material out there on our releases, on the tape, very few of them say 'Courtesy,' whoever the client is that we happen to be working for.

Mr. ZEITLIN: Well, there's a big difference, I mean, if we're putting out a piece on a new Sony product, I mean, I think it's a no-brainer when you show the footage--and it's also not really necessary to identify. I think where you get into an area where it might make sense is when you talk issues--if it's somebody on camera talking and they're identified that sort of makes it clear where it's coming from.

Mr. MOSKOWITZ: Well, can I get everybody just to take a half-step back, because let's remember this debate, from everything I've seen, read, heard, and talked to, is purely the government. It has--I don't hear anybody issuing a healing cry over the stuff that we do day-in and day-out; it's really government. And I'm glad the story is kind of focused there, because I would hate to see it broaden, and it seems very focused. I would hate to see any of us broaden it. I think it should be focused to the issue of--has the government--yes, I think--we've heard from the man in the street, they think there is some kind of power that the administration is going to have over broadcasters. I think that, as I said before, poppycock. But the concern is, that the government is trying to conceivably push an agenda, advocacy, without identifying itself, which again we reject, because we know we're identifying ourselves as a journalist. So really the crux of this comes down to, where do we stand on the GAO versus the Justice Department? Should there be identification within the body of the narration, and/or the script, and/or super?

Mr. WENGRYN: Larry, it's Pete Wengryn. I just--for some clarification--the article does, in fact, reference this dating that out of 25 segments where Karen Ryan was featured on KGTV that one of those were related to the government and the others were produced by corporations and organizations. So they did, somewhat, bring--broaden the horizon--

Mr. MOSKOWITZ: Yeah, but Peter, that's not The New York Times and that's not what the debate is, that's not what was on Andrea Mitchell, that's not what was on "Meet The Press."

Mr. WENGRYN: Fair enough, I'm just trying--making sure--

Mr. FOLEY: Larry, I think he said it at the beginning, I mean it's not--either one of those standards is a good standard, the GAO or the Justice Department. Things should be identified--we all agree with that, and I also agree with you on the fact that, I mean, that Time--article, the focus is on the government abusing its power, it's not--and they are, sort of, using VNRs as an example.

Mr. SIMON: Right. But I think if we're looking at, and focusing on this as what the government is doing--and Larry, I'll try and address your question--I think it's bad, anytime the government, in effect, puts mandates on TV stations in terms of what should be broadcast.

Mr. MOSKOWITZ: But that's not my question, that's not the issue. The issue right now is over the government--over do we add the second belt to the already existing belt and suspenders?

Mr. SIMON: Right. I mean, what you're asking--should the government be required, on every stitch of video, to identify it as government provided.

Mr. MOSKOWITZ: Or in some other manner within the body, and then, if so, what is the manner of that? That's the question; that's the only question.

Mr. ZEITLIN: Well--this is Stan Zeitlin--I think all of us in the industry, who are on this call, as well as everybody else, are concerned--have to be concerned about what--how are--how is our business going to be affected by this; will it be affected? And I'm reminded by a flap that The Times was part of two years ago when they were accusing celebrities of appearing in medical VNRs and PSAs and not identifying themselves as being compensated by drug companies. Everybody remember that?

Mr. FOLEY: Yes.

Mr. ZEITLIN: OK. What happened was, for a couple of months that business dried up and those people whose business was providing celebrities were dry. Well, business is booming for them, and as you look around your own boards and see what you've got working, look how many well-known people are appearing in medical VNRs, and b-rolls, and PSAs, and SMPs; and this flap has just passed over.

I can't predict that it's going to happen the same way again, but history suggests that it is that, and that as Larry says, you've gotten some leads out of this, it's--this is not going to harm this industry or the PR profession at all. We may have to adapt to change, but I think that it just shows the value of what we're providing.

Mr. MOSKOWITZ: Well can I get back to asking the specific question I'm trying to get some answers to. I think all of us agree we should properly identify, and we all do--we do, as a matter of course, or we'll reject the piece--that we identify the actual entity that's employed us. Not just the PR firm, but the actual end client in the textual advisory and on this slate beginning and ending the video, we always include, and have always included a--contact information both for editorial and for technical purposes. To this, I think, all of us agree.

The issue now, the bone of contention between the GAO and the DOJ is--seems to be, purely is there identification within the body of the piece. And that, to me, I--what I'm trying to get is a binary response from you, because I think what that then begs the question is, what is the manner of that criteria; GAO was far from clear. Is that textual, is that Chyron, is that in every frame, is that--or is that simply a sign-off that says I'm John Jones for the Department of Health & Human Services?

Mr. FOLEY: That's why the FCC--that's why Kerry wrote the FCC, he wants them to come up with some sort of rules, I suppose, for exactly that, Larry. He wants to see some standard on government issued video news releases and other materials.

Mr. MOSKOWITZ: But the FCC has not--has no purview to do that.

Mr. FOLEY: Right.

Mr. MOSKOWITZ: This would have to be--come from--

Mr. SIMON: See the FCC controls the stations--

Mr. MOSKOWITZ: Right; not the government mouthpiece.

Mr. FOLEY: But you know, they are--they're already--Kerry's strong-headed back into the FCC's court.

Mr. SIMON: Right. And I think that's the danger--and Larry I'll give you a straight answer to the question. Do I think there should be some form of identification within pieces by the government? Do I think it's something that offers stations no flexibility like a Chyron over the entire piece, I think clearly that would be bad for our industry, but you could argue either way, whether that serves the public or not.

But I think that's where I go to the freedom of the press issue, because should stations be required to broadcast something, and obviously they wouldn't--that should stations be forced that if they want to use something from the government they have to do it a certain way.

KEVIN: Well Doug, let me ask you a question.

Mr. SIMON: Sure.

KEVIN: Would stations be less likely to use VNRs if each frame was identified as coming from the government?

Mr. SIMON: I don't think they would be more inclined, possibly less. But I think there would be less impact, perhaps, on government issued material than if that were to crossover into the private sector and suddenly it became a FCC requirement that we had to do that on each frame of video we sent out for anyone, whether it was for tsunami relief or what have you.

Mr. FOLEY: Well it won't be the FCC; they have no jurisdiction.

KEVIN: And Jack, do you have a question?

JACK: OK. Larry, you said step back from this?

Mr. MOSKOWITZ: Yeah, I'm trying to say that we can all yammer away, from here to eternity. I'm saying there are some clear and present things that are now obvious on Wednesday that weren't so clear last week and weren't even clear in some of the dust on Monday. And that is, that nobody is talking about banning or changing any basic policy here, at all. That the procedures that have existed for the last 50 years are going to continue. Stan eloquently said, you know, these things come and these things go, and we've seen them.

What I'm saying is--to me there are a couple of very quick things that I think we have to discuss and try to decide. One is that I think there is a move in the Council of Public Relations firms--I don't know how widespread this is--which I find totally and completely impractical, which is that a bug--and again, I don't know what that's going to say or what that's going to tell anybody, but the term bug is emanated. I don't know if people understand television or video involvement in this decision--it's not a decision yet, by the way--that would run in the bottom right-hand corner of every frame.

I really would seriously reject that, because of its impracticality. I think it would diminish the use by broadcasters. I think it would be pointless to viewers, and if any broadcaster wanted to use the thing, they probably cover it over with their own bug and might automatically do so.

The second thing is, do we identify within the piece whether in a change sign-off with intermittent Chyron, which I also find would be practically impossible or in some other way? So to me, it's binary questions--do we want a bug or not? And secondly, what is the methodology that we adopt as an industry in terms of that internal identification?

JACK: Larry, could I make a comment? I looked at TV last night, 20 stations, and every single one of them had an icon in the bottom right corner. But when I mean stepping back--what The Times is afraid of, is TV being used by the Bush administration. When we had the war, the Iraq War 2003, practically every TV station, CNN, MTV, FOX, all out for the war, calling it not the invasion of Iraq, but Operation Iraqi Freedom, all those slogans that TV stations turned into a PR arm of the president. And they're--that is what they're afraid of, subverting the entire television industry of America in pursuit of Bush's aim.

Mr. MOSKOWITZ: Well Jack, what you just said--they certainly didn't need VNRs to do that.

JACK: No, but now the Bush administration is doing that VNRs, they're afraid of TV being co-opted in so many ways.

Mr. MOSKOWITZ: Yeah, but Jack, what I--what we said is this has been going on since Eisenhower. And most of the work that we do is for the Consumer Products Safety Commission teaching parents how to be aware of the baby carriage that you just bought that is being recalled, because it might fall apart.

JACK: Do you think CNN and FOX went overboard in calling it "Operation Iraqi Freedom?" Or should they have just said the "Invasion of Iraq?"

Mr. MOSKOWITZ: They're journalists, they can call it what they want.

Mr. SIMON: Right.

JACK: But wasn't it one-sided though, wasn't it too objective to me, and considering that--

Mr. MOSKOWITZ: Democracy--we have a lot of voices in the world of journalism and they're journalists and they have a right to call it--

Mr. ZEITLIN: We have one woman on the phone to ask a question and I think we should listen to that.

JACK: Ninety-five percent of the people are pro--of the TV stations are pro-Bush administration; that's the problem The Time sees.

But go ahead, let's hear some questions from our--

KEVIN: Are there any more listeners out there? Questions from listeners?

Mr. FOLEY: There's a lady that asked a question.

Ms. NANCY SNOW (Cal State Fullerton): Well, I'll go ahead. This is Nancy Snow from Cal State Fullerton. Hi, Jack.

JACK: Hey, Nancy.

Ms. SNOW: And I wanted to put it in an international context to get back to the news as information or news as propaganda. If you will recall, Charlotte Beers at the State Department had a hard time using what were similar VNRs in the Shared Values campaign to target Muslim audiences overseas. What they discovered is a lot of these countries rejected these US State Department produced documentaries.

Mr. MOSKOWITZ: If I can interrupt--the accuracy was that she was producing 30-second spots. They were not...

Ms. SNOW: That's right. They were not VNRs.

Mr. MOSKOWITZ: ...VNRs; it's a completely separate issue and they are not allowed under their bylaws--and under the bylaws of the European Broadcasting Union, and the International Telecommunications Conventions, to accept ads from a foreign nation, period.

Ms. SNOW: That's right, they were rejected as paid political propaganda, but--

Mr. MOSKOWITZ: Right.

Ms. SNOW: But--

Mr. MOSKOWITZ: Not paid political propaganda--as anything from another government it is, by law, prevented. So this has nothing to do with the VNR issue.

Ms. SNOW: Well, I--there is a related context here, I mean, I'm at a university that is the fourth largest communications program in the country and we have thousands of public relations students. And I'm asking you, as an educator, how I can explain to them who has the ultimate responsibility here? It sounds like, from the conversation, that you're saying it really goes back to the local affiliates that they have to decide. Leave it up to the journalists and their news decision process.

What's the public's responsibility here as a viewer? How many of us really have the tools to understand the context of this process? This is very complicated, I think, for a lot of people, you know, the average man and woman on the street doesn't get this and I don't get this fully, I mean how this operates. So I'm asking you all as professionals in the field, what should I be telling my students?

Mr. FOLEY: One thing, I mean, let's put this in context--this is one component of how the news is disseminated. Producers have the option of airing a story or not airing a story, the timing of the story, again, going back to anonymous sources. We don't know if those sources are biased towards or against a particular issue. VNRs are just another component of getting the message out there.

So focusing just on VNRs as a way to slant the news is really being disingenuous, you've got to look at the whole package. And if we want to attack just VNRs, let's attack anonymous sources, let's not allow that, because that again can provide propaganda that we're not aware of. Airing a story, not airing a story is a decision by a producer, again can be viewed as propaganda, so let's put things into context.

Mr. SIMON: Right. And I would encourage you to tell your students that when they watch the news, they should be looking back at what they felt was the origin of that story. Who's interest benefited from that story being on? And they'll become a more educated viewer. And what I think is that the American television viewer has become far more sophisticated than it sounds like, you know, you're ready to give them credit for. And I think they know the difference between a good story and good information.

Mr. FOLEY: Well most of what we disseminate is of a--is public--I always think of it as kind of a free media service, a free media news feed. Media can look at it, decide how they want to play it, and use it or not use it. There's always that element of it, and the media do have a responsibility, there's no getting around that.

But, you know, from where I'm sitting, most everything that we do is not the kind of stuff that we're talking about here. We're talking about government propaganda, we're talking about video news releases and, you know, airing without any identification at all, advancing political agendas or quasi-political agendas. That's not what most of us are in the business of usually doing; we're out there, you know, promoting products and services and, you know, if it's a new healthcare product that got FDA approval, you know, it's something people would want to know about. And I think that's fairly harmless and I don't think people are going to walk away with any sort of sinister sense that something sinister is going on.

When you turn to political ideology that's a different story, and that's really the crux of The New York Times article and the editorial today.

Ms. DEBORAH MURPHY (Former Editor, PR News): Can I ask a question?

Mr. FOLEY: Sure.

Ms. MURPHY: My name is Debra Murphy; I'm the former editor of PR News. And my question is, is what is the relationship between companies that are paying to have these things run, and are not identifying them as advertising? I think that's the issue here and I think to pooh, pooh the credibility of The New York Times and any question they would have about public relations is a little bit dangerous in this day and age.

Mr. MOSKOWITZ: Debra, Larry Moskowitz here.

Ms. MURPHY: Hi.

Mr. MOSKOWITZ: Every one of those VNRs in question, and every one that anyone has called are fully identified in at least two different ways. So there's no...

Ms. MURPHY: Right.

Mr. MOSKOWITZ: ...there's not one instance.

Ms. MURPHY: But wasn't the Armstrong story--

Mr. MOSKOWITZ: Armstrong had nothing to do with that. He was not the VNR.

Ms. MURPHY: But it was originally paid for play and in the piece that was in The New York Times he indicated that Medialink has an arrangement with FOX. So are you paying them to run this stuff, or what is the arrangement that you have?

Mr. MOSKOWITZ: Yeah, and it's fully identified material, Debra. It says right on top, Video News Release from Medialink on behalf of the M&M/Mars Company.

Ms. MURPHY: Right, and I think--

Mr. FOLEY: And another thing, and Larry I don't want to speak for you, but I guess I will in a sense--we're not paying FOX to put it over the air, we're paying FOX to feed it to their affiliates.

Ms. MURPHY: Right. And I think if it's identified and it's clearly identified that that's the source that it comes from--I mean, we're right. Journalists, every day, day-in-and-day-out are using information that comes from other sources. That's how we build stories and it's the marketplace of ideas.

I think the issue here that gets a little slippery is if there are people in the mainstream press, or people who are critics beyond the industry who believe that sometimes these things are being paid for and they're not identified as advertising. And it's comforting to that in the case of you all, that you're not doing that.

Mr. MOSKOWITZ: Never!

Ms. MURPHY: That everything that goes on the air is identified and you're not trying to have something be public relations and masked as public relations that is, in fact, a paid ad.

Mr. SIMON: Right.

Ms. MURPHY: So, OK.

Mr. MOSKOWITZ: In our industry, I thank you.

Mr. SIMON: And I--

Mr. MOSKOWITZ: The twain doesn't meet.

Ms. MURPHY: Right.

Mr. SIMON: That's the challenge that we have to address is how do we, as an industry, deal with--to get to Jack's original point of, you know, what do we do going forward to make sure this isn't a problem.

Mr. MOSKOWITZ: No, what I think Doug is that Debra's view--lack of knowledge of the inside way this system works--is our biggest problem.

Mr. SIMON: Exactly. But that's something--

Ms. MURPHY: But I actually--

Mr. SIMON: If I may--if I can just finish for a moment--if that's what we, as an industry, have to tackle, because what we're doing that's legitimate, paid, advocacy that's clearly identified is being lumped in with possibly some illegitimate practices in this tremendous confusion out there. And I think that's our challenge as an industry is to make people understand that, because I think if they really do understand it most, without a specific political agenda, are going to be OK with it.

Ms. MURPHY: Right. And if I can frame my query, I mean, I understand if part of what you think needs to happen here is education. But, by the way, I just completed my masters degree in journalism at American University--and these public relations and editorial questions came up all the time in terms of where's the media getting their information from, how are they identifying it, and where is the fine line between advertising and public relations?

So, if your question or your comment to me is that part of what you need to do is educate people about the process, then I totally buttress that view, because if people aren't clear that what The New York Times is doing is differentiating between paid advertising and a piece that comes that helps a reporter put together a story, then somebody in the public relations industry isn't doing their job either in getting that information out.

Mr. ED LAMOUREAUX (WestGlen): I'd like to add, and this is Ed Lamoureaux from WestGlen, you know, it is an interesting pickle that we find ourselves in here, in this industry, and I do believe that there is a need to certainly educate the public. I think that extends though, I think there's--there needs to be cooperation with the media to determine, you know, what we should be doing that we could be doing, possibly--I mean, this has worked very well for many, many years.

In getting back to Nancy's question, what can you tell your students? You know, its shared responsibility. Publicists in the public relations industry, in general, has a responsibility to make the contacts available, to clearly let the generalists know where this is coming from and who the source is, and, at that point, it is the generalists' responsibility to be the gate keeper and to make sure that this news that they're representing to the public is, in fact, balanced. And we, as an industry, potentially could help to both educate the public and work with the news media to, you know, make a better situation all around, so that we don't see channels for this kind of paid advocacy drying up, as we have seen in the past with different flaps in the fact that some stations have been told that--the junior level producers have been told by the higher-ups that, you know, we're not going to take this outside content.

Mr. FOLEY: Yeah, they--that--somebody made the point earlier that these flaps come and go and I think that's a good point.

Mr. LAMOUREAUX: Yeah.

Mr. FOLEY: Because that's what's happening here, this is going--first of all, this is political, it's about something the White House did. It's not about what we're doing day-in-and-day-out. We're all responsible in this business, we do what we're supposed to do, we don't brown paper-wrap anything. It goes out clearly labeled, clearly identified, and then the media can opt to use it or not.

But, you know, I'm just saying that media needs this material. They don't have the resources and so, you know, they're--they'll tell you in one breath, 'We don't really need you guys.' The next breath, 'What have you got for me today?' So, there is a media responsibility.

Mr. MOSKOWITZ: Right. And I'd also like to point out, because The New York Times ran a story from the University of Wisconsin that did an analysis of the 100 markets dating back through the election period. And the amount of coverage that went to the old line of 'If it bleeds, it leads,' outweighed by something like a four or five to one factor any coverage of local politics.

So let's get real here--local television is not what's taught in journalism school.

Ms. MURPHY: Not at all.

Mr. MOSKOWITZ: And local television is in the game to get numbers and to do it as cheaply and as effectively as possible.

JACK: Larry, can I--

Mr. MOSKOWITZ: And I think that's a reality.

JACK: Larry, I'd just like to say something here. For further contacts, we should separate what is going on for the government from private industry; one has not much to do with the other. And looking at The Times article, one of the VNRs reported how the military is so humanitarian in Iraq. Another one showed the US troops celebrating the fall of Baghdad. What's going on here--more than 100,000 people have died because the Iraq war was sold to the American public on television, and partly by Colin Powell speaking to the UN, February 5, 2003. And everything he said there has been, I think, shown to be completely false.

So we're talking about lives, war--this war cost us $200 billion. We're only talking about the government here, we're not talking about private industry--it's got nothing to do with private, safety or any of that stuff. We're talking about a war being sold to the American public through the use of television.

Mr. FOLEY: Well that's--Jack, that's why Kerry wrote the FCC--Larry said the FCC doesn't have jurisdiction, I beg to differ. Kerry wrote to them and said we need to enforce rules there in identifying where materials come from.

Mr. MOSKOWITZ: No jurisdiction over us.

Mr. FOLEY: Over us--I'm not saying...

Mr. MOSKOWITZ: Right.

Mr. FOLEY: ...they have jurisdiction--over TV. Yeah they have--there are rules in place to identify where material comes from and what Kerry wants to know is what's the FCC doing about identifying that material; that's the issue.

Mr. SIMON: And Jack, to your point, I think--I don't think government VNRs are the issue to try and stop government folks from lying to the American people in one way or the other. Because I think everyone will say that every administration has done that to one degree or another.

Ms. MURPHY: Well it's my understanding that during the war, you know, the Persian Gulf War, that there were VNRs that were used. That the patriot missiles that were supposed to hone in on how accurate they were--I don't know if this is right or not, but I thought Hill & Knowlton was involved in that. And there was some flack that came out about the fact that these pieces that were being provided by the government for coverage of the war was being run on the news at night.

I mean--so obviously, these things come around again and again, and the question is, if it's about the media more and their ethics, and whether they're identifying things, then it's easy to put the ball in that court. But, if you don't, sort of, find that way, that voice piece to get to the public and to explain to everybody else, then these things will just, you know, you'll be revisiting this over and over, I think.

Mr. MOSKOWITZ: Debra...

Ms. MURPHY: Yeah?

Mr. MOSKOWITZ: ...sure it revisits us over and over, and there is nothing in a VNR that wouldn't have been in the same press release, and they all say from the Department of Defense.

Ms. MURPHY: Right.

Mr. MOSKOWITZ: And otherwise where is the content coming from?

Ms. MURPHY: Do you recall--do you remember that?

Mr. MOSKOWITZ: It's the Department of Defense video...

Ms. MURPHY: Yeah.

Mr. MOSKOWITZ: ...they are on every label I've ever seen anywhere.

Ms. MURPHY: And it's now an ethics case in college textbooks, by the way. In fact, we, you know, read about it and spoke about it when I was doing my masters degree at American University. And I'm not pointing the finger and saying there's nobody here who's identifying this, I'm saying why then is there this huge gap in misinformation that nobody--

KEVIN: OK, Debra, it's three o'clock, our time is up. To all our panelists and listeners, thank you.

VMR

The most interesting in VMR that as it have thought up. The idea deserves interest. And it would take place in a case if not so strongly influenced mass opinion. And Bush's administration has absolutely become impudent, recently such mad statements gives out, it's terrible.

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