FCC Launches Inquiry Over Iraq War Coverage
WASHINGTON -- Federal regulators have launched an inquiry into whether broadcast networks and military analysts violated federal sponsorship identification rules as a result of an effort by the Pentagon to increase favorable news coverage of the Iraq war.
Recently, the Federal Communications Commission sent letters to people mentioned in an April New York Times investigation of military analysts who received private briefings by senior Pentagon and White House officials and taken on tours of Iraq in exchange for more favorable commentary on the status of the war.
An FCC spokesman confirmed the agency's enforcement bureau recently sent letters asking for more information from the analysts. He declined to comment on the number of letters sent or provide other information about the inquiry, citing agency rules that bar FCC officials from commenting on open investigations.
The letters were sent five months after a May 6 letter from Rep. John Dingell (D., Mich.) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D., Conn.), which asked the agency to investigate whether the analysts and the broadcast networks that employed them may have violated federal sponsorship identification rules.
The FCC's letters were first disclosed by U.S. News & World Report. A spokeswoman for Mr. Dingell said he never received a response to the May letter and wasn't aware that the FCC had launched an inquiry into the issue.
The FCC's rules prohibit broadcasters and employees who prepare shows from accepting money, goods or services in exchange for on-air promotion without disclosing that arrangement to viewers or listeners.
Radio broadcasters have mostly run afoul of the FCC's payola rules over the years, but last October, the agency proposed combined fines of $76,000 to two broadcast companies for not telling viewers that columnist Armstrong Williams had received money from the Department of Education in exchange for promoting the No Child Left Behind Act on his shows and other programs.