web posted January 17, 2000
CBS inserts digital images on news shows. More reasons to trust the media
CBS News uses digital technology to project certain images during its shows, including an advertisement that covered the NBC JumboTron during New Year's Eve celebrations in Times Square, the New York Times reported last week.
The technology, which has become common in sports and entertainment
programs, has generally not been used on news shows.
The use of similar technology sparked controversy in 1994 when ABC journalist Cokie Roberts appeared in front of a picture of Capitol Hill.
Wearing a coat indoors in the network's Washington bureau, Roberts was introduced by ABC News anchor Peter Jennings as reporting from the Capitol. Neither network viewers nor Jennings knew that Roberts was indoors.
Both Roberts and Rick Kaplan, then executive producer of World News Tonight, were reprimanded and the network issued an on-air apology.
Spokesmen for NBC, ABC and Fox said their news departments do not use
digital technology during news broadcasts. A CNN spokeswoman told the
Times she knew of no time the technology had been used by the cable network.
Networks deny ceding control to anti-drug agency
Executives at several major networks are emphatically denying a report suggesting they gave government officials creative control of programs in order to sharply reduce the number of anti-drug spots sold at a bargain rate.
As part of legislation passed by Congress, the government allocates millions of dollars for the purchase of commercials discouraging drug use. Networks that take the money are required to sell the spots at a 2-for-1 rate -- unless they essentially buy back the time by airing programming with anti-drug messages.
Spokesmen for five networks confirmed that scripts and tapes of programs are supplied to government officials so the wonks can determine if the shows count toward relief from the 2-for-1 deal. While the arrangement has raised questions about the potential for government officials to influence programming, the networks discount that possibility.
"At no time has the independence or creative integrity of our programming been compromised," a CBS spokesman said on January 13.
NBC released a similar statement disavowing any federal influence on programming. "NBC never ceded content control of any of our programming to the (Office of National Drug Control Policy, aka ONDCP) or any other department of the government."
Executives at other networks made similar statements.
The arrangement was first reported by online magazine Salon.com.
Every major network insisted that federal drug officials were never given the opportunity to alter scripts or edit shows to beef up their anti-drug message.
The commercial matching program was required by Congress, which agreed to fund an ad campaign as long the media matched the effort, ad for ad. That effort kicked off in 1998 with a $152 million spending spree. About 70 per cent of that money went to national networks, which the drug-policy office believed was the best way to reach its target audience of kids and teenagers, according to the agency's Alan Levitt.
The office decided to make it easier to meet the congressional mandate to match the ads by allowing broadcasters and other media outlets to devise alternative means of qualifying for the match. For instance, according to Levitt, after accepting ads from the drug control office, the New York Times published an anti-drug handbook for teachers and America Online created a Web page for parents.
Networks, said Levitt, were allowed to submit episodes of shows that included anti-drug plotlines in lieu of matching PSAs. The episodes were submitted to the ONDCP's media agency, Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, where they were evaluated to determine for how many PSAs a particular show would account. Networks have been allowed to substitute programming for some 14 per cent of their matching obligation, Levitt said.
Some networks found other ways of meeting the matching mandate. For instance, 20th Century Fox, a unit of News Corp., has added anti-drug PSAs to home videos. A spokesman at Fox insisted that episodes of TV programs were submitted to the White House for accounting purposes only, not content review.
"All discussions with the ONDCP about the depiction of drug use and its consequences have been conducted in the open, and from the outset all producers, network executives and others involved in producing Fox programming have been invited to participate in such discussions," the company's statement read.
The WB network also released a statement revealing that it had consulted with the ONDCP on two specific episodes dealing with drug and alcohol abuse: "This is not unusual -- we also ask for ongoing input from a number of qualified groups."
"ER" executive producer John Wells said he was concerned about the "ethical implications" of network officials trying to influence shows, but insisted that he never felt pressure from NBC officials to beef up the anti-drug storylines.
"We have never been influenced to do anything in a direction we opposed," said Wells, who added that the real power of a network lies in whether a series makes it into the lineup and when it is scheduled to air. Once the show has a commitment from the network to air, network officials have relatively little influence, he said.
Like many producers and writers, Wells has met with White House drug czar Gen. Barry McCaffrey in Los Angeles. Several industry sources reported that they were impressed by McCaffrey in meetings in which he urged the creative community to treat the ONDCP as a resource for information about drug abuse.
Meanwhile, because the networks did not meet the specific mandate of airing one PSA for each commercial bought by the ONDCP, questions have been raised about whether the government is getting its money's worth.
Capitol Hill was relatively quiet on the matter: Congress is still out of town for its winter vacation.
GOP group goes after Forbes
A moderate Republican group that includes many George W. Bush supporters is spending $100,000 on TV to attack a Steve Forbes attack ad. The group is chastising Forbes for using his commercials to go after the Texas governor.
It's the Republican Leadership Council's second advertisement chiding
Forbes on negative ads. The first one, in November, warned the publisher
not to run attacks as he did in 1996 against eventual GOP nominee Bob
Forbes contends the Republican Leadership Council is a front group for Bush, with more than half of its board of advisers having endorsed him and many RLC contributors also giving him money. After the group's first ad ran, Forbes complained to the Federal Election Commission that it amounted to an illegal contribution to Bush.
Forbes will file another complaint, said Bill Dal Col, his campaign manager. "They're breaking the law once again."
The Forbes ad at issue charges that Bush broke a pledge to oppose any tax increase by supporting a package that included a tax hike along with a large tax cut. The ad called Bush's record on taxes "a record of broken promises."
Even if they are not coordinating, the RLC and the Bush campaign are making similar points: that Bush should be known for his tax cuts and that negative campaigning is wrong.
"Steve Forbes' attack ad distorts the truth," says the new 30-second ad. "Our research shows Governor Bush signed the largest tax cuts in Texas history."
Many Republicans blame Forbes for helping to weaken Dole, who won the GOP primary but went on to lose to President Clinton. The ad says: "Sadly Steve Forbes has a history of unfairly attacking fellow Republicans."
In a Republican debate the weekend before, Bush and Arizona Sen. John McCain agreed not to run negative ads against one another, but Forbes would not make the same pledge. The RLC ad closes with video of Bush and McCain shaking hands during that debate, with a narrator saying: "Call Steve Forbes and tell him to join George Bush and John McCain in running a positive campaign on the issues."
The RLC plans to run the ad heavily for five days in Iowa and five days in New Hampshire and, if Forbes continues to air his attack ad, the RLC will buy more time, said executive director Mark Miller.
Bush also is preparing an ad that responds to Forbes, in which Bush says he is running a campaign free of "cynical and negative politics." He doesn't name Forbes but says: "My opponent has chosen to run a negative campaign," advisers said.
Dal Col didn't offer any proof that the RLC and the Bush campaign worked in concert but said it was obvious, given their similar strategies.
"Of course they coordinated," Dal Col said. "They've got to prove there's not (coordination). It's too obvious."
Miller said there were no discussions with the Bush campaign on the ad, even though many RLC donors also support Bush.
"You take any group of Republicans in the country and put them in a room, 70 percent are going to support Bush," he said.
"Send him back to tyranny!":Tens of thousands of mothers fill Havana street for Elian
Waving tiny Cuban flags in a stiff breeze, tens of thousands of mothers marched along Havana's main oceanfront avenue on January 14, marking the day 6-year-old Elian Gonzalez was to have come back to Cuba from the United States.
Elian's own mother drowned at sea. The boy was plucked from the waters off the coast of Florida on November 25, one of three survivors of a boat accident in which his stepfather and eight others -- in addition to his mother -- drowned as they tried to reach the United States from Cuba.
Cubans have rallied almost daily since that time, supporting the demands of the Cuban government and Elian's father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, for the boy's return to Cuba. Both sets of Elian's grandparents also live in Cuba.
With their children by their sides or in their arms, the women followed Elian's two grandmothers, both wearing shirts emblazoned with their grandson's picture, down the Malecon coastal highway.
To emotional chants of "Return Elian to Cuba -- Save Elian," and "We want our son," the several-mile long march made its way to the building housing the U.S. Interests Section, where most of the demonstrations have taken place.
Elian has stayed with relatives in Miami since his rescue, while the
bitter battle over his custody escalated. While the U.S. government deliberated
over whether to return the boy to his father in Cuba, Cuban-American activists
protested to keep Elian in the United States.
In Cuba, Elian is referred to as "the kidnapped boy," and Cuban officials said they were eager for his return.
"I believe in the word of the U.S. authorities," said Ricardo Alarcon, president of the Cuban National Assembly. "They have expressed themselves clearly in the proper relation. Let's hope that they will find a way to simply convert its words into actions."
The INS rejected the day before a second application for asylum filed on behalf of the boy, but agreed to delay its deadline for returning him to Cuba -- originally the day of the protest -- to allow time for an appeal in federal court.
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