The White House defends their promulgation of propaganda.
In an opinion last week, the Justice Department concluded that the practice was appropriate as long as the videos presented factual information about government programs. The memo was sent to heads of federal departments and agencies.
“The prohibition does not apply where there is no advocacy of a particular viewpoint, and therefore it does not apply to the legitimate provision of information concerning the programs administered by an agency,” according to the Justice Department memo.
The advice conflicts with the opinion of the Government Accountability Office, which is the investigative arm of Congress. The GAO says that video news releases amount to illegal “covert propaganda” when they fail to make plain that the government is behind the releases.
The video news releases — from the Pentagon, Agriculture Department, Census Bureau and other agencies — have the appearance of other segments in news programs and frequently are not identified by local stations as being produced by the government.
White House press secretary Scott McClellan suggested the lack of disclosure was the fault of the broadcasters, not the government.
“Many federal agencies have used this for quite some time as an informational tool to provide factual information to the American people,” he said. “And my understanding is that when these informational releases are sent out that it’s very clear to the TV stations where they are coming from.” [Salon.com]
Yeah, right. C’mon, Scott — you’re busted. Just admit it, willya?