Pubdate: Wed, 12 Jul 2000
Source: Journal Gazette (IN)
Copyright: 2000 Journal Gazette
Contact:  600 W. Main Street, Ft. Wayne, IN. 46802
Fax: (219) 461-8648
Author: Sylvia A. Smith, Washington editor, The Journal Gazette


The White House should publish a monthly "report card" that evaluates the
drug use messages on TV shows, Rep. Mark Souder, R-4th, said Tuesday.

Each network would get two grades one for how well the entertainment
programming promoted an anti-drug message, and one for how much the programs
glamorized or made light of drug use.

He said NBC, for instance, would get credit for an "E.R." program that dealt
with drug overdose and the problems it created for a family but would lose
points for a "Friends" episode that showed people drinking alcohol and
having more fun as a result and made a pro-marijuana joke.

"By holding it up for public scrutiny," he said, "it would embarrass them
out of their position."

But Barry McCaffrey, director of the White House Office of National Drug
Control Policy, dismissed Souder's idea.

"I personally don't think the media's the problem," he said. "The TV and
film industry are not causing the drug problem in America."

The big problem, McCaffrey said, is what children are doing after school and
before their parents come home from work, on weekends and during the summer.

Souder made his suggestion at a congressional hearing called to review
McCaffrey's strategy of trying to insert anti-drug messages into popular TV

In the past two years, the drug office has paid scriptwriters and networks
about $22 million for placing anti-drug messages in TV shows. Networks also
received credits for airing anti-drug messages in their shows, allowing them
to run commercial ads instead of government-sponsored anti-drug ads.

McCaffrey said the program has been changed so he will no longer review
scripts in advance or give payments for writers to insert anti-drug themes
in scripts. He also said he wants to extend the program to movies.

In both cases, he said, payments will reward writers and producers only
after the movies or TV shows are released.

McCaffrey said advance pay ments might interfere in the "creative process"
of making a movie, but post-release rewards would not.

He also said he is trying to figure out how to turn the "cookie" operation
back on at the drug czar's Web site.

A "cookie" is a surveillance code a Web site operator can plant in a site
visitor's hard drive. Then, when the person searches the Internet for
drug-related information, banner advertisements pop up to direct the person
to the drug czar's drug-education site.

President Clinton's chief of staff ordered the "cookies" be turned off last
month because of criticism about invasion of privacy.

McCaffrey told the lawmakers that the "cookie" doesn't allow his office to
see who is visiting the Web site, only what banner ads are the most

But both practices using "cookies" and inserting anti-drug messages in TV
programs could backfire, one congressman said.

"We can't afford to have kids thinking that every anti-drug message
portrayed on TV was planted by the government. Likewise, we cannot afford to
have their parents fearing that they are being spied upon every time they
visit a government Web site for information or help," said Rep. John Mica,

McCaffrey said both are important to his advertising campaign to persuade
young people about the dangers of drugs and to reduce drug use.

Souder said entertainment producers should voluntarily put anti-drug
messages their scripts."We are all uncomfortable that this is tied to
money," he said. "This is something they ought to be doing on their own."

Congress has approved a $1 billion, five-year anti-drug campaign.
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