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White House steps up campaign to influence Hollywood

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    NMU         WASHINGTON, D.C.         Broadcasting         Jul 18, 2000    

White House steps up campaign to influence Hollywood

  • The White House drug czar appealed to the movie industry’s “collective conscious” in asking it to advance anti-drug themes in films, but denied allegations that his office paid television networks to do the same with their programs.

The White House outlined an appeal to the movie industry to promote anti-drug messages in films in a July 11 hearing before the House Government Reform Committee’s subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy and Human Resources.

“We believe there will be opportunities to leverage popular movies and videos that responsibly communicate campaign messages, after they have been released,” Gen. Barry McCaffrey said in prepared testimony.

McCaffrey, director of the White House Office on National Drug Control Policy, generated controversy with a similar program with the television industry where officials looked for anti-drug messages in programs by reviewing scripts and watching episodes in advance. If such messages were found, the network received a credit that reduced the number of public service announcements it was required to broadcast.

“We gave the networks scientific information and the option of working it into their content,” reported McCaffrey as saying. “Not one cent was paid to anyone for program content. We would like to get our anti-drug message into popular culture, but, clearly, we can’t get involved with the creative process.”

In a move to obtain similar ends, but not generate controversy, McCaffrey is using the power of persuasion to influence movie studios, individual directors and writers to create cinematic themes that portray anti-drug messages. “Science-based messages as part of movies are powerful and culture shaping,” Broadcast & Cable reported McCaffrey as saying.

McCaffrey stressed that there are no financial incentives for cooperating with the program.

“There is no money at all, zero, given to any program for including anti-drug messages,” the New York Times reported McCaffrey told reporters. “These decisions are made by the creative community on their own.”

McCaffrey said that experts believe that movies have a stronger influence on young people than television does, and that films that glorify drug use or portray it in a comedic fashion confuse youth when families, schools and communities are trying to instruct them about the dangers of drug use.


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