By Ira Teinowitz
The Federal Communications Commission is the latest federal agency being asked by members of Congress to investigate the Pentagon's use of network and cable military analysts.
In a letter today, Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, joined U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., in asking the FCC to probe whether the Pentagon’s wooing of the analysts was sufficient to require sponsorship identification when the analysts appeared.
“While we deem the DoD’s policy unethical and perhaps illegal, we also question whether the analysts and the networks are potentially equally culpable pursuant to the sponsorship identification requirements in the Communications Act of 1934 and the rules of the Federal Communications Commission,” the letter stated.
“When seemingly objective television commentators are in fact highly motivated to promote the agenda of a government agency, a gross violation of the public trust occurs,” it continued. “The American people should never be subject to a covert propaganda campaign but rather should be clearly notified of who is sponsoring what they are watching.”
The New York Times disclosed recently that the Pentagon had a program to woo the analysts to its stance on the Iraq war that included providing trips to combat zones and meetings with top defense officials. The paper reported that some of the analysts were at the time also working with companies seeking defense contracts, potentially giving them information and access not enjoyed by competitors and risking that access with unfavorable TV reports.
Rep. DeLauro previously wrote to news executives at the TV and cable networks asking they explain their criteria for military analysts; she joined with 40 other congressmen to ask the Pentagon’s Inspector General to conduct a probe.
Her office said today that executives of ABC News and CNN have responded.
FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps suggested the agency should investigate.
“Forty-seven years ago, President Eisenhower warned against the excesses of a military-industrial complex. I’d like to think that hasn’t morphed into a military-industrial-media complex, but reports of spinning the news through a program of favored insiders don’t inspire a lot of confidence. Chairman Dingell and Chairwoman DeLauro are right to seek inquiries as to what went on and whether any violations may have occurred,” said Mr. Copps.