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Agencies barred from producing one-sided video releases

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NEWS MEDIA UPDATE   ·   CALIFORNIA   ·   Newsgathering   ·   Dec. 8, 2005

NEWS MEDIA UPDATE   ·   CALIFORNIA   ·   Newsgathering   ·   Dec. 8, 2005

Agencies barred from producing one-sided video releases

  • A judge ordered an end to two taxpayer-funded video news releases promoting new proposals concerning statewide nurse-to-patient ratios and lunch break policies.

Dec. 8, 2005  ·   The content of two publicly funded video news releases produced by the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency was deemed “misleading” by Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Lloyd Connelly, who ordered the agency to cease production of any similar videos promoting an unbalanced view of government policies.

“By including comments from the public that are solely supportive of the emergency or proposed regulations, the VNRs (video news releases) create the misleading impression that the regulations are unopposed by any segments of the public and are not subject to criticism, thereby discouraging any further questioning or investigation of the matter by the public,” Connelly wrote in his Dec. 1 opinion.

The releases included suggested lead statements for news anchors with comments from a government official and hospital workers, according to the opinion.

The video releases subverted the state’s Administrative Procedures Act, Connelly wrote, because they violate the Act’s objectives of “public participation and good faith consideration of public comments on regulation by the agency proposing to adopt regulations.”

One video supported Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s emergency ruling seeking to delay a lowering of the nurse-to-patient ratio standard from 1:6 to 1:5, a proposed delay the California Nurses Association opposed because a lower ratio means better work quality, said Shum Preston, CNA’s political consultant.

“It [the video] was clear industry propaganda,” Preston said.

The other video, which Connelly ordered removed from the Department of Industrial Relations Web site, addressed a proposal for more relaxed regulations regarding meal and rest breaks for hourly employees, The Associated Press reported.

The court ruled that the agency “improperly expended public funds to produce and distribute the nurse-to-patient VNR and the meal and rest periods VNR without clear legislative authorization.”

The lawsuit was filed in March by the CNA, the California Labor Federation AFL-CIO and SEIU United Healthcare Workers-West in response to the videos which cost more than $3,500 to produce and transmit.

(California Labor Federation v. California Labor and Workforce Development Agency)MM

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