FCC Probes Ties Between Military and Pundits
The Federal Communications Commission has begun looking into allegations that the Pentagon recruited and, in effect, trained nearly two dozen retired military officers to promote the Bush administration's war policies in the news media.
A investigation published by The New York Times in May, "Message Machine," found that the Pentagon "used those analysts in a campaign to generate favorable news coverage of the administration's wartime performance." Nineteen seemingly objective TV and radio analysts were given classified information and private briefings by senior White House, Justice and Defense Department officials, including Vice President Dick Cheney. And many of those analysts also had ties to military contractors, the Times reported.
The FCC earlier this month sent letters to people referenced in the Times' report asking for more information about the potential conflicts of interest. The FCC is focusing on whether the news outlets and the commentators violated federal rules for disclosing such potential conflicts.
"I'm glad we are looking into these allegations that there was a possible attempt to deceive the American people concerning one of the most controversial issues facing the country today," one of the FCC's commissioners, Jonathan S. Adelstein, said in a statement released yesterday. "We have an obligation to pursue this investigation, and to conclude it quickly."
The probe was sparked by Rep. John D. Dingell (D-Mich.) and Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro (D-Conn.) after the pair sent a letter (text) to the FCC.
The Defense Department's inspector general opened up its own investigation this summer, at the behest of Congress, U.S. News & World Report's Paul Bedard reports in his "Washington Whispers" blog.
Then, earlier this month, top FCC officials suggested that TV stations and networks might have violated two provisions of the Communications Act of 1934 by not identifying ties between the analysts and the Pentagon.
"The FCC is so far reaching out to the analysts mentioned in the New York Times article and asking for each to respond to the allegations of wrongdoing within 30 days," "Washington Whispers" reports.
In June, Adelstein spoke at a conference urging the agency to "conclude this investigation quickly" while criticizing the length of a two-year-long investigation into the Department of Education's payment of $245,000 to conservative commentator Armstrong Williams to promote President Bush's No Child Left Behind Act.
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