An amendment to a defense bill that would prohibit the Pentagon from sending policy advocates out to media outlets in an effort to control news coverage has passed the House. It will also kick off investigations by the Pentagon inspector general and the Government Accountability Office into the practice. Last month the New York Times reported that the Pentagon programmed at least 75 military analysts, who in turn were quoted some 4.5K times in various broadcast and print media outlets. One watchdog is charging that first major broadcast and cable outlets allowed themselves to be used, and are now ignoring the exposure of the Pentagon program.
The Senate is preparing to consider the bill, and the White House is already threatening a veto for a number of reasons.
The measure was sponsored by Paul Hodes (D-NH), Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Rosa DeLauro (D-CT). Many are comparing the program to earlier revelations concerning fake video news releases and the hiring of pundits/personalities to support various administration initiatives. The FCC has been asked whether the Pentagon effort violates the sponsorship disclosure rules applied to broadcast commercial or promotional speech.
Watchdog Free Press accused the broadcast and cable news networks of aiding and abetting the government propaganda scheme while at the same failing to provide balanced and objective coverage of important issues. It’s calling for a high profile congressional investigation of the incident, which it says will at the very least earn coverage from C-SPAN even if the commercial networks continue to turn away from the story.