The Washington Post reports that the Government Accountability Office has issued new warnings against another common form of government propaganda:
The Government Accountability Office warned federal departments last week against using a popular public relations tool that already has landed two agencies in hot water for breaking federal anti-propaganda laws.
In a Feb. 17 memo, Comptroller General David M. Walker reminded department and agency heads that prepackaged news stories that do not identify the government as their source violate provisions in annual appropriations laws that ban covert propaganda.
Prepackaged news stories, sometimes known as video news releases, have become an increasingly common public relations tool among government agencies and in industry. They are designed to resemble broadcast news stories, complete with narrators who can be easily mistaken for reporters and suggested introductory language for TV anchors to read. Some news organizations have run them without changes and without identifying them as government-produced.
Within the last year, the GAO, the investigative arm of Congress, has rapped the Office of National Drug Control Policy and the Department of Health and Human Services for distributing prepackaged news stories that do not disclose within the story that the government is the source of the material. "[T]elevision-viewing audiences did not know that stories they watched on television news programs about the government were, in fact, prepared by the government," Walker wrote. "We concluded that those prepackaged news stories violated the publicity or propaganda prohibition."