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White House issues new guidelines for reviewing TV scripts

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  1. Content Restrictions

    NMU         WASHINGTON, D.C.         Broadcasting         Jan 26, 2000    

White House issues new guidelines for reviewing TV scripts

  • New Office of National Drug Control Policy rules mean networks will only be credited for anti-drug programming through post-broadcast review of scripts.

White House Drug Czar Gen. Barry McCaffrey’s Office of National Drug Control Policy in late January issued new guidelines for reviewing network television scripts to determine if they will qualify as anti-drug messages, giving the networks credit for time they are obligated to devote to anti-drug advertising.

McCaffrey responded to widespread criticism that his office was reviewing the scripts after the online magazine Salon reported on the practice in mid-January. The new guidelines prohibit government review until after the programs have aired.

However, the office will continue to review scripts after airing when the networks assert that the anti-drug messages they contain merit credit toward air time obligated to anti-drug messages.

Under a 1997 law, the drug office can advertise its anti-drug message on a network or in a newspaper if the media outlet donates comparable space or time for anti-drug public service messages.

The drug office has allowed networks to air anti-drug messages on network series to offset the public service advertising time, but only if it approves the scripts. According to the New York Post, the networks recouped nearly $25 million in air time to sell to advertisers last year by airing anti-drug messages on two dozen popular shows including “ER,” “The Practice” and “Beverly Hills, 90210.”

In a letter to The Washington Post, McCaffrey wrote that “at no time” had the drug office dictated content on the shows. He said the office does make its expertise in the fields of drug use, prevention, and public health available in response to questions from the entertainment industry.

© 2000 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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