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Broadcasting and Cable is reporting that kids advocacy group Children Now released a study Monday, Dec. 14, that claims the food and beverage industry's self-regulatory efforts have not worked. It and other studies being pitched at the Federal Trade Commission next week come as the commission considers new government guidelines on food marketing on air, online and elsewhere. The Study, entitled "The Impact of Industry Self-Regulation on the Nutritional Quality of Foods Advertised on Television to Children," found that almost three out of four foods advertised to kids on TV (72%) are for products "in the poorest nutritional category," while only 1% are for healthy foods like fruits and vegetables.
Food and beverage companies put out a progress report in October on the Council of Better Business Bureau's Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative, which was launched in 2006, after an earlier FTC forum on the issue advised that more industry self-regulation of snack food marketing was necessary to combat the growing childhood obesity problem. The report asserted that the 12 companies now in their second year of the initiative (four more companies have since signed up) have demonstrated an "excellent level of compliance." The Children's Now study said those efforts have not been successful and that almost half of the food ads featuring licensed characters are for foods that "pose the greatest risk for obesity." The Centers for Disease Control has estimated that the medical costs of obesity could be as high as $147 billion.
Nextgov is reporting that a House committee last Thursday passed a bill that would make it easier for citizens to download and search information on the finances of companies given government money. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee agreed to add the measure to a bill that is moving faster, S. 303, the 2009 Federal Financial Management Improvement Act. The financial transparency bill, known as the Government Information Transparency Act, H.R. 2392, now goes to the House for full consideration. The measure follows earlier efforts by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. to standardize the collecting, analyzing and sharing of financial information. This would mean that all banks receiving bailout funds would have to file their business activities in the same standard format. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., the ranking member of the committee, who voted against the bailout, introduced the bipartisan bill in May.
Congress is increasing scrutiny of the Troubled Asset Relief Program, following the president's recent announcement that he wants to shift bailout funds to job creation initiatives. Last week, the House passed a bipartisan bill, H.R. 1242, that would create a Treasury Department database to deliver lawmakers and federal auditors near real-time updates on the use of bailout funds. Issa and co-sponsor Edolphus Towns, D-N.Y., chairman of the committee, also amended S. 303 to make grants awarded by each federal agency fully searchable in one place. Watchdog groups and individuals would be able to view grant applications and later see if grantees followed through on promises in their applications to use taxpayer money efficiently, that according to representative Issa.
Crain's is reporting that venerable publications Editor & Publisher and Kirkus Reviews folded last Thursday. According to preliminary numbers from MediaFinder.com, these two publications were not alone, 367 U.S periodicals shut down in 2009 and 64 went online-only. Meanwhile, 247 magazines launched during the same period. Regional titles composed the largest category on both sides of the ledger. As bad as the news is, the pace of decline appears to have slowed. In 2008, a total of 526 U.S. magazines ceased publication. In 2007, there were 573 that shut down. The number of titles that folded this year may actually be higher, that according to Trish Hagood, president of Oxbridge Communications, parent company of MediaFinder, which describes itself as the largest online database of U.S. and Canadian publications. She explains that it will take until well into the new year to do a final tabulation. Even so, she agrees that fewer magazines are shutting down. Not surprisingly, given the rise of digital media and the severe recession, the number of new magazines is also declining. In 2008, there were 342 magazine launches in the U.S. In 2007, there were 411. Said Ms. Hagood: “This is not a propitious time to launch a magazine.”
Reuters is reporting that the top editor of a Chinese newspaper that interviewed U.S. President Barack Obama has been demoted, sources said, in a move they described as fallout from Communist Party censors' anger over its handling of the story. Xiang Xi, the top editor of the Southern Weekend weekly newspaper who interviewed Obama during his visit to China in mid-November, has been named as "executive" editor-in-chief and placed under a new top editor this week after pressure from the ruling Communist Party's propaganda department, said three employees of the paper. Xiang's demotion could revive debate in Washington about the impact of Obama's visit. It underscored the contention between Washington and Beijing over censorship and access during Obama's visit, when U.S. officials' pressed for opportunities for him to speak directly to the Chinese public.
The Southern Weekend weekly is one of China's most popular and combative newspapers, featuring investigative reports on social problems and official corruption and misdeeds. Like all Chinese media, the Southern Weekend comes under state control and censorship, but it is based in the far southern province of Guangdong, which has gone further than other parts of the country in allowing adventurous reporting. Obama chose to hold his keynote interview in China with the paper, and not, as many visiting leaders do, tightly controlled state television. Reporters at the paper believed Xiang was moved to placate the powerful Party propaganda department, incensed that the interview with Obama was initiated without its approval, said an editor from a magazine who said he was told of the development by senior staff at the paper. He also requested anonymity. During his visit to China, Obama prodded the host government on censorship and human rights. But Beijing showed no signs of giving ground, and did not allow questions from reporters during the joint press appearance by Obama and President Hu Jintao.
The New York Times is reporting that critics have raised concerns over a potential conflict of interest concerning Fox News Channel commentator Glenn Beck. The issue is whether Mr. Beck, who often hails the virtue of buying gold on his Fox show is also a “paid spokesman” for a company named Goldline International, which sells gold coins. Joel Cheatwood, the senior vice president of development for Fox News, said the network’s legal department had recently sent a letter to Mr. Beck’s representatives “seeking clarification” about his work for Goldline. Fox News released a statement outlining its official policy about such issues stating that “Fox News prohibits any on-air talent from endorsing products or serving as a product spokesperson.” Fox News stressed that it was not aware that Mr. Beck was listed on the Internet as a paid spokesman. But he definitely was, until very recently. On cached editions of the Goldline Web site over the last week to 10 days, a photograph of Mr. Beck was accompanied by an asterisk which led to a line at the bottom of the site that read: “paid spokesman.”
It may have been the letter from Fox News — or maybe a stinging piece last week about Mr. Beck’s gold associations on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart” — that led to the change in the “paid spokesman” designation. Mark Albarian, the president of Goldline, said in an interview that the company had been a longtime advertiser for Mr. Beck, beginning on his syndicated radio show and continuing on television. Part of the radio sponsorship, he said, involves being able to use a host’s face on the company site. Matthew Hiltzik, a spokesman for Mr. Beck, said the host should never have been listed as a “paid spokesman” because he did not receive separate fees beyond the sponsorship for that or any other work he did for the company. Before he moved onto Fox News, however, Mr. Beck appeared in a video on the Goldline Web site extolling the virtues of gold. And Mr. Beck routinely reads Goldline ads on the radio, a practice Fox said was acceptable under its guidelines.
The Huffington Post is reporting that major television networks continue to host retired generals as military analysts without alerting viewers to their extensive ties to defense contractors and the Pentagon. Military strategy is a frequent topic on TV in the wake of President Obama's announcement that he will send more troops to Afghanistan now -- and start bringing them out by mid-2011. But few television viewers have any idea that some of what they're hearing originates from men who are literally profiting from the war. One of these men in particular -- NBC News military analyst and retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey -- has appeared on MSNBC at least 10 times in the past month to criticize Obama's proposed troop-withdrawal deadline, to lavish praise upon Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the head of U.S. Central Command, and to underscore the importance of training Afghan security forces.
But neither McCaffrey nor the MSNBC anchors ever mentioned the fact that McCaffrey sits on the board of directors of DynCorp International, a company with a lucrative government contract to train the Afghan National Security Forces. On December 4, McCaffrey appeared on Hardball with Chris Matthews, where he was introduced only as "retired General Barry McCaffrey." Upon being asked whether we are creating our own enemy in Afghanistan, McCaffrey said: "The key is, can we create an Afghan security force that in a couple or three years will replace us? That is the real question on the table." McCaffrey went on to say that "there's some belief, strong belief on the part of General [Stanley] McChrystal and others, to include me, that yes, you can create an Afghan security force. I don't believe it's possible in a year. I see this as a 3- to 10-year effort, at the front end of which we're going to take casualties and spend a lot of money." According to Forbes magazine, this 3- to 10-year effort in Afghanistan will generate about 53% of DynCorp's $3.1 billion in annual revenue, a fact that McCaffrey failed to mention.