Ringers Part 3-Staying on Message

UPDATE 2011: Armstrong Williams is again in the news, this time for publishing his sermons on virtue, dissing gay rights, and allegedly getting much too personal with his male personal trainer. But before that, he was cited by the Federal Communications Commission for taking payola to tilt the news to favor the Bush administration.

“Although a small price to pay given the scope of Armstrong Williams’ deception, the fines were long overdue. Using taxpayer-funded propaganda to shape popular opinion is illegal, unethical and an insult to the public. Broadcasters who allow such propaganda on the air should be dealt with strictly and swiftly.

The Bush adm. was rotten with this kind of thing, and Williams had his career made as a black man who would propagandize for conservative causes. There’s no law against that, but there are laws against posing as a newscaster when you are paid to preach a party line.

BACK TO 2008: Elsewhere in disaster management, showing the coordination for which they are famous, FEMA made sure they controlled the message, scheduling a news conference without those pesky reporters asking annoying questions…

FEMA scheduled an early afternoon news briefing on only 15 minutes notice to reporters here Tuesday to talk about its handling of assistance to victims of wildfires that were ravaging much of Southern California.

But because there was so little advance notice for the event held by Vice Adm. Harvey E. Johnson, the deputy FEMA administrator, the agency made available an 800 number so reporters could call in. And many did, although it was a listen-only arrangement.

At the news conference itself, some FEMA employees played the role of reporter, asking questions of Johnson — queries described as soft and gratuitous.

“I’m very happy with FEMA’s response,” Johnson said in reply to one query from a person who was an agency employee, not an independent journalist.

And did you know that our tax money went to make commercials for the Bush adminstration disguised as news? So we can see on the ‘news’ what a heckuva job they are doing. Pretty circular, huh?

Under the Bush administration, the federal government has aggressively used a well-established tool of public relations: the prepackaged, ready-to-serve news report that major corporations have long distributed to TV stations to pitch everything from headache remedies to auto insurance. In all, at least 20 federal agencies, including the Defense Department and the Census Bureau, have made and distributed hundreds of television news segments in the past four years, records and interviews show. Many were subsequently broadcast on local stations across the country without any acknowledgement of the government’s role in their production.

Sometimes the administration uses real people instead of actors, but that can be expensive, as seen here…

U.S. communications regulators cited conservative commentator Armstrong Williams on Thursday for violating a ban on “payola” in promoting the Bush administration’s education plan.

After investigating for more than 2-1/2 years, the Federal Communications Commission concluded that Williams and his firm violated agency rules by promoting President George W. Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” policy on television without disclosing they had been paid to do so…

Williams was not immediately available for comment. He has denied any wrongdoing but has acknowledged that the Education Department’s outside media firm paid $240,000 to promote No Child Left Behind during a television show he owned and hosted.

Armstrong Williams makes big bucks in the black conservative pundit biz. I’ll bet James Harris dreams of getting there some day.

And how’s this for supporting the troops?

Letters from hometown soldiers describing their successes rebuilding Iraq have been appearing in newspapers across the country as U.S. public opinion on the mission sours. But many of them are the same form letter.

Of course, this is the bad old Bush adminstration. I shouldn’t be so stressed about John McCain, but the man in the crowd who’s a talk show host, and Joe the ‘plumber’ is a lot in one week. I’m having flashbacks.

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