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DeLauro Welcomes FCC Probe of Pentagon Program

Oct 7, 2008  •  Post A Comment

The congresswoman who demanded a probe of the Pentagon’s use of TV and cable network military analysts to push a pro-Bush administration message is praising the Federal Communications Commission’s decision to investigate whether the use violated disclosure requirements.
The FCC’s Enforcement Bureau this week sent formal “letters of inquiry” to 19 former military officers and five networks concerning allegations that the officers received consideration to air favorable views of the Iraq war during their appearances on network shows.
In a statement today, U.S. Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro, D-Conn., called the FCC probe “welcome news.”
“The disclosure of this secretive and likely illegal program raised numerous questions about the policies and activities within the Department of Defense, but it also raises questions as to whether the analysts and networks are potentially equally culpable pursuant to the sponsorship identification requirements,” she said.
The New York Times disclosed in April that the Pentagon had a program to woo the analysts to its stance on the Iraq war that included providing trips to combat zones and meetings with top defense officials. The paper reported that some of the analysts were at the time also working with companies seeking defense contracts, potentially giving them information and access not enjoyed by competitors.
After the disclosure, Ms. DeLauro wrote network and cable executives asking for an explanation and joined with House Energy and Commerce Chairman John Dingell, D-Mich., in a letter to the FCC asking it to investigate. The letter questioned whether the wooing was sufficient to trigger a requirement of sponsorship identification.
“While we deem the DoD’s policy unethical and perhaps illegal, we also question whether the analysts and the networks are potentially equally culpable pursuant to the sponsorship identification requirements in the Communications Act of 1934 and the rules of the Federal Communications Commission,” the letter stated.
“When seemingly objective television commentators are in fact highly motivated to promote the agenda of a government agency, a gross violation of the public trust occurs,” it continued. “The American people should never be subject to a covert propaganda campaign but rather should be clearly notified of who is sponsoring what they are watching.”
(Edited at 5:12 p.m. EST to add second paragraph.)

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