Mzansi Afrika

From Johannesburg South Africa, a window on the world

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Propaganda

The SABC news comes in for a lot of criticism (well deserved in my opinion) for being a government mouthpeice. According to a recent survey the SABC news gives a huge percentage of its coverage to government activities, and showing the government in a positive light, especially in comparison to eTV news. It's interesting to see that George W Bush is also trying to use TV news as a weapon of propaganda. Reuters reports:

President Bush said on Wednesday that the U.S. government's practice of sending packaged news stories to local television stations was legal and he had no plans to cease it. His defense of the packages, which are designed to look like television news segments, came after they were deemed a form of covert propaganda by the Government Accountability Office watchdog agency. GAO, an arm of Congress, said this ran counter to appropriation laws and was a misuse of federal funds. Among the packages the GAO looked at was one produced by the Health and Human Services Department to promote the Medicare prescription drug law. The story included a paid actor who narrated the piece in a similar style to the way a television reporter would. "The entire story package was developed with appropriated funds but appears to be an independent news story," the agency said. It added that some stations were airing such pieces without a disclaimer saying they were produced by the government. (More)
According to Bush, there's nothing wrong with this as long as the news inserts are based on fact. Well, when it comes to promoting political agendas, "fact" is often a matter of opinion. As far as I'm concerned, if an insert on TV news is produced by government I would want to know about it - especially if public funds are being used to further party political aims. I can just imagine Tony Leon turning purple and jumping up and down if the ANC had to be caught doing something similar.

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