As threats to restrict government-produced video news releases reached a fever pitch on Capitol Hill this spring, Medialink CEO Laurence Moskowitz—whose company is a major distributor of VNRs—didn’t mess around. He hired Public Strategies Inc., a Texas-based lobbying and political-image firm. Moskowitz wanted some high-powered help to fight legislation that would greatly restrict how TV stations could use one of his biggest products, prepackaged news clips that can be run as full stories with little editing.
Public Strategies has close ties to the White House. Its vice chairman, Mark McKinnon, oversaw Bush campaign advertising in 2000 and 2004 (he was on B&C’s June 27 list of Washington’s 10 most influential “Hidden Persuaders”). Public Strategies’ chief Washington lobbyist, Billy Moore, is working the VNR issue in Congress.As it happens, Congress appears set to enact a measure that mirrors the disclosure practice Medialink has followed since 1989. Two weeks ago, the House passed a measure that would require VNRs to carry disclosures identifying the government agencies that produced them. But it would not force TV stations to air the disclosures as some lawmakers demanded. Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens favors a similar approach.Citing a confidentiality agreement with Medialink, Moore declined a request for an interview, but Moskowitz was happy to chat about the grappling over VNR regulation. He’s pleased with the way the legislation is wending its way through Congress, but he plays down Public Strategies’ influence. Instead, he says, “I think worries about VNRs have died down.” Nevertheless, he’s keeping Public Strategies on the payroll to help make sure the Senate rejects a tougher bill that would prohibit stations from stripping out disclosures.