War on Drugs: The National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign Page: 4 of 6
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younger youth would be the most effective strategy. "Stopping drug use before it starts"
became a familiar refrain of then-Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey. Phase III commenced in
August 1999 with all elements in place, including additional partnerships with national
media, entertainment, and sports organizations as well as civic, professional, and
The Matching Requirement and an Early Controversy
The campaign's authorizing legislation has a matching requirement. Media
companies that are paid by the campaign to run antidrug ads are required to donate an
equal amount of advertising time or space or other in-kind contributions to the antidrug
effort. ONDCP contracts with the Advertising Council to run this National Media Match
Program, which has garnered $447 million worth of pro bono TV and radio time for
public service announcements (PSAs). In addition to the campaign's core ads, the
matching requirement can be met by airing the PSAs of other agencies or groups - such
as the YMCA - whose programs reinforce ONDCP's youth drug prevention strategy.
Early in the program, ONDCP began giving credit toward the matching requirement
to television networks whose programs contained antidrug story lines. The networks
could then reclaim the credited time it owed to the government and resell it to commercial
advertisers at the going rate. Some magazines participating in the campaign also were
credited with meeting the matching requirement by printing stories or editorials with
antidrug content. Under this scheme, the networks earned $21.8 million in FY1999 by
selling airtime that, in the absence of the credits for antidrug messages embedded in their
programs, would have been donated to the campaign under the matching requirement.3
This practice was publicized in January 2000, in the online magazine Salon, by
freelance reporter Daniel Forbes, who also claimed that, in some cases, ONDCP was
reviewing scripts and suggesting changes to make shows conform to the campaign's
antidrug message.4 The next day, the story appeared on the front page of the Washington
Posts and was picked up by other media outlets, resulting in congressional hearings at
which ONDCP officials denied influencing the content of TV shows and magazine
articles. Following the controversy, FY2001 appropriations language prohibited the
practice of crediting media outlets on the basis of story content.6 At least one law review
article has deemed the practice unconstitutional.7
3 U.S. Congress, House, Committee on Commerce, Subcommittee on Telecommunications,
Trade, and Consumer Protection, The White House, the Networks and TV Censorship, hearing,
106h Cong., 2"d sess., Feb. 9, 2000 (Washington: GPO, 2000), p. 40.
4 Daniel Forbes, "Prime-Time Propaganda," Salon, Jan. 13, 2000. Forbes' stories on this issue
can be accessed in the archives of Salon.com.
s Howard Kurtz and Sharon Waxman, "White House Cut Anti-Drug Deal with TV," Washington
Post, Jan. 14, 2000, p. A1.
6 U.S. Congress, Conference Committees, 2000, Making Omnibus Consolidated and Emergency
Supplemental Appropriations for Fiscal Year 2001, conference report to accompany H.R. 4577,
H.Rept. 106-1033, 106h Cong., 2"d sess. (Washington: GPO, 2000), pp. 390-391.
7Ariel Berschadsky, "White House Anti-Drug Policy: Statutory and Constitutional Implications,"
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War on Drugs: The National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign, report, July 3, 2006; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc807473/m1/4/: accessed December 13, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.