jeudi 17 mars 2005

News management, propaganda and public information

ABC News had a gripping story yesterday March 16th: Government Blurring the Line on News? It was about Bush administration sending video news relases to TV stations accross the country. These video news releases are designed and packaged as other segments in the news and some stations - mostly local - did broadcast them without no indication they have been produced by the government.
As an example, ABC News cited the case of "a report about the president's controversial education bill which was presented as news on many local stations including those in Houston and Washington and ended with the words: This is a program that gets an A-plus. In Washington, Karen Ryan reporting." . But, as ABC News point outs, Karen Ryan is not a reporter. She works in public relations and was hired by the Bush administration to voice the government-produced news stories.

While the government sees this pratice as "the legitimate provision of information concerning the programs administered by public agencies", the Government Accountability Office, which is the investigative arm of Congress, considers that, in many cases, this amounts to "covert propaganda", especially when there is no clear mention of the source.

News management, as public relations specialists and spin doctors call it, is not something that the Bush administration invented. It has been commonplace in many governments for one decade, notably Clinton's and Blair's. In France too, we have some attempts to news management, especially from the part of younger ministers (e.g. Nicolas Sarkozy) who have been politically socialized in a TV environment. Yet, compared to the US and the UK, news management remains somewhat amateur in France .

News management encompasses a set of techniques - setting the agenda, managing expectations, arranging photo opportunities, embedding journalists in government operations, providing easy access to data or video footage, etc. - which all aims at controlling how the media cover a specific issue. That governements and political organization seek to frame issues should not come as a surprise. What is more unfortunate is that so few journalists do resist such strategies.

1 commentaire:

Comandante Agí a dit…

Agitprop reports on the new Bush propaganda. Bush Spews Propaganda and Orwell is jealous!

The rabbit hole goes deeper ya know...