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Commission launches inquiry over Iraq War coverage

The FCC has launched an inquiry into whether broadcast networks and military analysts violated federal sponsorship identification rules as a result of an effort by the Bush administration to increase favorable news coverage of the Iraq War.

The commission’s rules prohibit broadcasters and employees who prepare shows from accepting money, goods or services in exchange for on-air promotion without disclosing that arrangement to viewers or listeners.

The FCC sent letters to principals mentioned in a “New York Times” investigation last April of military analysts who received private briefings by senior Pentagon and White House officials and were taken on tours of Iraq in exchange for more favorable commentary on the status of the war. The commission has maintained a public silence about the investigation. “U.S. News & World Report” was the first to disclose the FCC’s letters.

Last October, the FCC proposed combined fines of $76,000 to two broadcast companies for not telling viewers that columnist Armstrong Williams had received money from the Department of Education in exchange for promoting the No Child Left Behind Act on his shows and other programs.