This article is a follow-up to related pieces I've written on the topic, both here and at WND (and sometimes initially for WND and republished via U.S. Trade & Aid Monitor), such as:
This article is a follow-up to related pieces I've written on the topic, both here and at WND (and sometimes initially for WND and republished via U.S. Trade & Aid Monitor), such as:
This article originally appeared in WND.com on 5/3/2012. Rights have reverted back to the author, Steve Peacock.
The U.S. State Department is planning to “buy” media broadcasts, as the Obama administration assembles a de facto propaganda machine, according to documents that reveal the president’s plans moving closer to the 2012 election.
According to information that U.S. Trade & Aid Monitor located via routine database research, State’s Bureau of Public Affairs is soliciting the help of “global news coverage service providers” to create and disseminate department “news.”
The selected contractor will provide “full-time, 24/7 service,” the Statement of Work for the plan said.
“The department seeks a service provider for full, turn-key news-style global television coverage of ad hoc open press events featuring the Secretary of State and other officials across the United States and throughout the world,” according to the SOW, “and to send this content back to the department’s Washington headquarters…”
Upon receiving these privately packaged productions, the department, in turn, “will distribute this video content to media organizations through an array of traditional and new media platforms.”
Indeed, just as the department is awaiting contractor bids on the project, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s representative at the World Press Freedom Day in Tunisia heaped accolades upon UNESCO for hosting the annual event.
In a “tweet” from Tunisia, Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs Esther Brimmer said, “I applaud the tireless, continuing work of #UNESCO in promoting the ideals of free and open media.”
Brimmer delivered remarks on behalf of the Obama administration during the opening ceremony, along with presenting a video speech from Clinton.
Referring to the Arab Spring demonstrations across the Middle East and North Africa, Clinton said, according to a prepared statement, “Voice by voice, text by text, Tunisians, Egyptians, Libyans and many others have dared to say what they believe and stand up for their own rights.
“Many others have dared to report on what they see happening, even when their lives were at risk.”
The State Department plan is twofold: to hire a single contractor to provide television news crew services on the one hand, and to provide transmission/streaming services as a corollary service.
“The television news crew category is both one and two-person crews, and includes one and multi-camera productions,” the SOW pointed out. “The transmission category includes both traditional fiber, terrestrial and satellite-based as well as file-based and Internet delivery platforms.”
The use of such government- as well as industry-funded broadcasts, known as “video news releases,” or VNRs, has increasingly come under fire in the past decade.
VNRs “are segments designed to be indistinguishable from independently produced news reports that are distributed and promoted to television newsrooms,” according to Source Watch, a Center for Media and Democracy project that chronicles the intersecting of public relations and public policy.
The General Accountability Office – the investigative arm of the U.S. Congress – in 2005 declared that several federal entities, such as the Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services, may have violated the law by disseminating VNRs as fact-based news reports.
Subsequent to the GAO’s findings, the “Stop Government Propaganda Act” was introduced to rein in and punish such activities; it died, however, after being introduced in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Proponents of VNR distribution claim that use of the video products is wholly legitimate. The Public Relations Society of America is that a VNR simply is “the video equivalent of a press release.”
The organization does advocate that industry members abide by certain parameters to ensure the integrity of VNR usage:
Despite congressional refusal to crack down on VNRs, the Federal Communications Commission issued a reminder to licensees of their sponsor-identification requirements under the Communications Act or 1934. Rather than holding liable the creators of the reports, the commission has placed the burden of disclosure on who ultimately airs the VNR.
“These rules are grounded in the principle that listeners and viewers are entitled to know who seeks to persuade them with the programming offered over broadcast stations and cable systems,” the FCC said.
When such VNRs are aired, “licensees and operators generally must clearly disclose to members of their audiences the nature, source and sponsorship of the material that they are viewing.”
Although the FCC continues to enforce these rules, the penalties arguably have been light.
Last year, for instance, it issued a forfeiture order to Fox Television Stations, Inc. when station affiliate KMSP-TV of Minneapolis used – but failed to identify – a General Motors-provided VNR during a news broadcast.
The FCC fined Fox $4,000 for failing to disclose GM sponsorship of the report.
Among other VNR-related enforcement actions, in 2007 it imposed a $4,000 fine on Comcast Corp. for also violating the sponsorship disclosure rules. Comcast’s CN8 news affiliate in that case had aired a VNR produced on behalf of Nelson’s Rescue Sleep.
The FCC soon after separately slapped a $16,000 forfeiture against Comcast for airing two VNRs from General Mills and Allstate, respectively.
The State Department through May 21 is reviewing contractor proposals in response to the new solicitation. It did not disclose the estimated cost of the endeavor, for which it will award a year contract with four one-year options.
FOR RELATED COVERAGE, PLEASE VISIT THE MONITOR'S STATE DEPT. PAGE.
A planned project to air U.S.-sponsored broadcast TV news across Pakistan has been cancelled, U.S. Trade & Aid Monitor has discovered. The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) had anticipated hiring a privately contracted broadcaster to work in tandem with the Voice of America (VOA) to produce a 30-50-minute show in the Urdu language that would have been aired five days a week; BBG, however, in an amendment to Solicitation #BBG50-Q-11-0033 explained the cancellation in one sentence:
This solicitation has been canceled due to a change in the agency requirements.
The BBG/VOA offered no further explanation.
The U.S. Agency for International (USAID) in 2008 had sought to embark upon a similar broadcasting endeavor in Pakistan, but it remains unclear whether the agency ever fully pursued that plan. As reported by the Monitor's predecessor site The Peacock Report (TPR), USAID envisioned "a multi-language delivery of U.S. government messages in urban as well as rural areas of Pakistan... in English, Urdu, Pashtu, Punjabi, and other regonal languages... in newspapers, magazines, and billboards as well as radio and television broadcasts..."
Though a recent search of the FedBizOpps database did not produce any evidence that USAID actually awarded contracts to carry out that ambitious initiative, neither did a search reveal a cancellation of that project. (See "U.S. Information Blitz to Unfold in Pakistan"; TPR, June 5, 2008).
The Obama administration is launching a media- and public-outreach program to improve Palestinian opinion of U.S. policy – a project that also seeks to promote the U.S. role in financing "Palestinian development and building the future Palestinian State," a federal contracting document reveals.
The U.S. Agency for International Development, through its Development Outreach and Communications Office, is overseeing U.S. State Department efforts to change its image among Palestinians.
USAID's strategy includes the delivery – carried out by a private-sector contractor – of U.S. government-approved feature articles and video productions to media outlets and to pass them off as news coverage.
The selected contractor primarily will be tasked with influencing Palestinian, pan-Arab and, to a lesser degree, international news organizations, while also directly engaging Palestinians via "community" events.
The agency recently released a draft Request for Proposals, solicitation #RFP294-2011-210, seeking comments from potential contractors on the viability of its preliminary plan.
Until fairly recently, according to the RFP, few Palestinians knew that USAID since 1995 has "provided more than [$]3.4 billion in assistance to the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza."
USAID points to a comparison of 2009 and 2010 poll results, which indicate an 8 percent jump in the number of Palestinians "who have heard of both USAID and the U.S. Agency for International Development" and a corresponding rise in the percentage of those who recognized the USAID logo.
Likewise, whereas in 2009 only 31 percent of Palestinians were aware that USAID was implementing projects in their area, the level of awareness rose to 44 percent by 2010, according to the RFP.
USAID attributes that heightened consciousness of U.S. efforts to previous communications outreach programs, but it says many Palestinians nonetheless remain wary of U.S. intentions.
There is a growing percentage of the population that has flat-out refused U.S. assistance, a development that otherwise contrasts elevated USAID name and logo recognition, the agency laments in the document.
"Despite this growing awareness, the 2010 survey indicates that the number of Palestinians refusing aid from the American people increased to 33 percent from 27 percent in 2009," the agency acknowledges. "Also, a majority of Palestinians (54 percent) believe that the motive behind aid from the United States Government is political rather than humanitarian."
USAID, therefore, is reaching out to contractors capable of stemming the negative perceptions.
The selected vendor will carry out various media and public awareness activities, ranging from the cultivation of relationships with regional and global news outlets to the distribution of USAID-branded "visibility items."
The RFP stops short of calling for the exclusion of journalists who are not overtly sympathetic to USAID and Palestinian causes. The document, however, explicitly advocates a reporter-filtering process to accommodate U.S. government needs.
Indeed, the RFP calls on the contractor to selectively, "Identify friendly or potentially friendly journalists and organize visits to USAID projects for Palestinian and international journalists and community representatives, as per the instructions of the Outreach Office."
The media outreach segment of the project entails the traditional acquisition of print, billboard and broadcast advertising of USAID endeavors.
But the plan also calls on the contractor to create and successfully place "news" products for public consumption – products that are distinct from ads and public service announcements:
"In coordination with the Outreach Office, the contractor will produce and publish or broadcast at least 6 success stories and project features a year in local newspapers, on local radio and TV, as well as design at least once a year special paid newspaper ads or inserts to showcase USAID's assistance activities."
The contractor, likewise, must produce video news releases, or VNRs, for broadcast via Arab satellite stations.
A corollary component of the initiative will assess the "internet and social media habits of Palestinians and the Arab world."
The goal of that effort is to enable USAID and the U.S. Mission to more effectively leverage platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
The selected contractor will be responsible for monitoring overall media coverage of USAID in the West Bank and Gaza, the provision of English translations and statistical analysis of that coverage to agency officials, and subsequent advisement on how to counteract negative reporting.
"In addition to providing monitoring, it is expected that the contractor shall make its own assessments of the coverage and suggest communication strategy modifications in order to improve the volume and tone of media coverage of USAID activities," the RFP says.
Public outreach events will target "marginalized communities" with a particular focus on Palestinian women and girls as well as all youth from 16 to 30 years of age.
"These events include, but are not limited to, Palestinian Mothers' Day celebrations, International Youth Day events, community sports events, school outreach activities, and trainings and contests in the fields of sports, arts, IT, and media."
Finally, the project will involve buying, stocking and distributing "high-quality visibility items branded with the USAID logo."
Possible items include basketballs, baseball caps, notebooks, pens, schoolbags, soccer balls, tee shirts and even computer USB cords.
USAID expects to award a two-year base period contract followed by a two-year option and an additional one-year option period. The agency did not disclose an estimated cost of the project.
USAID, which provided a five-day comment period on the draft RFP ending July 15, expects to release a formal RFP in the coming weeks.
This article originally appeared July 23 in WorldNetDaily (Reprinted with permission).
FOR ADDITIONAL COVERAGE OF THE U.S. AGENCY FOR INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT, PLEASE VISIT THE MONITOR'S USAID PAGE.
ALSO VISIT OUR MIDDLE EAST PAGE.
A list of potentially college-bound high school students will cost the U.S. Military Academy (USMA) at West Point nearly $58,000 to obtain, a move that will enable the institution to target-market certain kids based on personally identifiable information gleaned from that list. According to a contracting document that The Peacock Report has located, the USMA intends to award a no-bid, sole-source contract for this list of adolescents to the National Research Center for College & University Admissions (NRCCUA), a Missouri research and database-operations firm that prides itself for annually gathering "information on student attitudes and educational plans from nearly 5.5 million students" across the U.S.
NRCCUA will deliver to the USMA an unspecified number of "names of college bound high school students who meet certain criteria and have expressed certain interests," according to the document, which was first circulated via FedBizOpps on Wednesday. "The NRCCUA will conduct a nationwide search of students in 9th, 10th, and 11th grades that meet USMA selected criteria."
The company website touts its ability to collect names and personal data "through a nationwide post secondary planning survey of students in more than 20,000 high schools. Secondary school educators distribute, supervise and return questionnaires to NRCCUA."
NRCCUA's mission statement/marketing pitch is "Creating a brighter future for America's youth, with integrity... through a unique process that captures and shares educational and career aspirations...one dream at a time."
Upon closer inspection of its methods and services, it's clear that this "unique process" does indeed capture the aspirations of children, as evidenced by this promise to potential clients: "We will pinpoint and provide you with each matched student’s complete name field, year of high school graduation, high school name, email address, grade point average and more."
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is ringing in the New Year with a plan to address the arguably unbearable time it takes for airline passengers to traverse their way through screening checkpoints, The Peacock Report has discovered. TSA will achieve this heightened scale of efficiency by joining hands with another hallowed U.S. institution: the advertising industry.
According to a presolicitation notice that TPR located via a routine search of the FedBizOpps contracting database, TSA and the Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS) soon will launch a pilot project that seeks to turn airport checkpoints into bombardment centers of commercial offerings. TSA's stated short-term goal for the one-year experiment is an assessment of "industry interest in advertising on available spaces within Passenger Screening Checkpoints," the Dec. 21 document says.
The agency's unstated, implicit goal is to generate additional revenue for the federal government, a task it will accomplish by seizing a captive audience of eyeballs, 24/7, "in select airports throughout the [U.S.] and its territories."
An official "Industry Day" for the "Advertisements Within Security Checkpoints Pilot Program," as it is formally known, is slated for Jan. 11 at TSA Headquarters in Arlington, Virginia. For more information, call DHS Contracting Specialist Gregory Fields at (571) 227-2266, or contact him via e-mail at [email protected].
A little more balance has been restored to our federal political system, now that the Democrats have taken back both the Senate and the House of Representatives -- but one question remains: will the Democrats learn the lesson's of Nov. 7, 2006, in which Election Day became REJECTION DAY for the top-heavy Republican majority?
The citizens of the United States have spoken, and have sent a clear message to the war profiteers at Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Inc. But The Peacock Report, which nonetheless sees cause for celebration, has this to say to the Democrats: don't think you're on Easy Street, just because the K Street lobbyists are going to start kissing your asses and sending more money your way. We'll be watching you closely, and the American people are ready to punish you again if and when necessary.
And to the Republicans? To borrow a line from the punk rock band The Plasmatics: You had it made/You had it made/You had it made/But you blew it.
A little Pink Floyd is in order here as well: Big bad pig man/Charade you are... Hey you, White House/Charade you are.
The misguided brainchild of the U.S. Dept. of Education under the Bush Administration -- the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act -- is coming to an arena near you. Yes, indeed, all you mommies and daddies of public school-age children, the White House and the Education Dept. are going all-out to cram NCLB down your throat, rock star-style. For those who think you know everything about NCLB, especially those of you (such as myself) who are aware that the law is turning children nationwide into proficient test-takers rather than analytical thinkers, think again.
Or should I say, let the federal propagandists do the thinking for you. Make plans now to attend next year's No Child Left Behind Summit: The Path to 2014, also known as the "Keeping Parents Informed" tour.
2014, by the way, is the target date when Bush, Inc., and its congressional lemmings believe that NCLB will have succeeded in transforming all students into a homogeneous glob of learners, evidenced by the passing of standardized tests, upon which all teachers are expected -- no, threatened -- to now focus their attention.
I found out about the still-unpublicized and tentatively scheduled event during a routine search of the FedBizOpps database, where I recently discovered a presolicitation notice seeking to recruit a group of traveling technicians to set up big-screen- and placard-littered stages for "Keeping Parents Informed."
Indeed, this modern equivalent of a Josef Goebbels-style mind-twisting endeavor needs a group of techies, according to the document, who can transport and provide:
[H]igh tech audio set for (4) six person panels, staging (including TV quality lighting), video recording and editing, big screen production including multiple floor monitors, webcasting, computer equipment with Microsoft Office installed, scenic elements including backdrops, banners, and signage, etc. for an audience of 300-400.
Contrary to my above-mentioned rock-star reference, it's unclear whether this is a one-time event, tentatively slated for a "Venue: To Be Determined; Location: St. Louis, MO," or is a traveling indoctrination event for parents around the country.
Either way, I hope I can get tickets to witness this spectacle. Should be a doozy, with Liberty and Justice for all!