FCC Rules In Favor Of NORML; Networks Should Have Identified ONDCP Sponsorship

In response to a complaint filed by the NORML Foundation, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ruled last Friday that five major networks should have identified the Office of National Drug Control Policy as a sponsor of television programs embedded with anti-drug messages after receiving government dollars for doing so.
The NORML Foundation filed the complaint with the FCC on Feb. 17, 2000 alleging that the ONDCP’s practice of offering millions of additional advertising dollars for network programs that included anti-drug messages was in violation of the federal anti-payola statute. The FCC agreed, stating, “listeners and viewers are entitled to know by whom they are being persuaded.”
The networks were not fined by the FCC, but were put on notice. The FCC wrote in its decision, “sponsorship identification is required and we caution the networks to do so in the future.”
The ONDCP’s involvement with the networks was revealed by journalist Dan Forbes of Salon.com almost a year ago. Through a series of congressional hearings it was revealed that over a two-year span the networks received a total of $25 million in tax dollars for including anti-drug messages in scripts, which drew the ire of members of Congress and First Amendment activists.
“This was a sinister attempt by the drug czar to secretly alter program content by offering millions of dollars to those willing to use the programs for government propaganda,” said Keith Stroup, NORML Executive Director. “This FCC ruling clearly puts the incoming drug czar and the networks on notice that this is a violation of federal law and will no longer be tolerated.”
For more information, please contact Keith Stroup, NORML Executive Director at (202) 483-5500. To view NORML’s initial complaint and network responses, please visit www.norml.org/news/fcc_complaint/index.shtml.