White House bars advance review of TV scripts

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Advance review of anti-drug use themes in TV program scripts will be halted under revised policies issued by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. The practice, the subject of extensive press coverage after the story appeared in the online zine Salon on Jan. 13, had been criticized as improper government interference with the creative process.

The script reviews were a direct result of TV network officials seeking to qualify for advertising dollars under the government's National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign, a multimillion-dollar paid advertising effort. Media participating in the campaign are expected to donate free time or space equal in value to what the government purchases. Incorporating anti-drug themes in entertainment fare is one way for a TV network to meet its "pro bono match'' obligation.

Under the revised policy issued the week of Jan. 17, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy said it and its contractors will not review program episodes for pro bono credit until after the shows have been aired. It said it will continue to provide TV program producers "technical advice'' on drug abuse issues, but said that process will be kept separate from certifying whether particular TV program episodes qualify for pro bono match credit.

Copyright January 2000, Crain Communications Inc.

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