WASHINGTON: The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation today decided to postpone a decision on legislation that would permanently require federal agencies to label government video news releases as government productions.
The proposal was separate from a temporary one passed this week as part of a Pentagon spending bill.
Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) said the committee would revisit the Truth in Broadcasting Act, proposed by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), before the August recess.
Stevens questioned the need for such legislation, given the recently passed amendment by Sen. Byrd (D-WV), which prohibits spending on government VNRs for one year that do not disclose their source. "What's the rush?" he asked. "Why make an amendment now?"
He said that making the Byrd amendment, which is effective until September 30, permanent would be a more likely solution.
Also, the FCC's deadline for comments from the industry on a public notice about the VNR disclosure issue is July 22.
The list of witnesses included Jonathan Adelstein, commissioner of the FCC; Austin Schlick, acting general counsel of the FCC; Susan Poling from the Government Accountability Office; Barbara Cochran, president of the Radio-Television News Directors Association; Doug Simon, president and CEO of DS Simon Productions; and Judith Phair, president of PRSA.
Cochran, Simon, and Phair all told the committee that they did not object to the Byrd amendment, but feared the proposed legislation's requirement of continual disclosure throughout the VNR would have an effect on broadcasters rights.
"Broadcasters should have the ultimate responsibility to providing disclosure to the public," Phair said.
"Imposing this kind of one-size-fits-all solution to any video is problematic," said Cochran.
Lautenberg said he was surprised to hear such objections from the industry, but pledged to work with them to "arrive at the most convenient way" to require disclosure on VNRs.