ABC says it stopped trying to collect government financial credits for inserting anti-drug messages in its programs after President Clinton's drug advisers asked to see scripts before shows were aired.
"It wasn't something that we were comfortable doing," ABC President Patricia Fili-Krushel said today.
Her comments indicated that the White House's efforts to advance anti-drug messages were perhaps more aggressive than previously believed. Fili-Krushel also acknowledged that ABC's participation in the effort was more extensive than it had said before.
It was disclosed earlier this week that Clinton's Office of National Drug Control Policy, which has bought millions of dollars worth of commercial time on the networks, offered broadcasters financial credits if they could prove that their programs advanced anti-drug themes.
White House advisers also said that in some cases they worked with networks before shows were broadcast to make sure their messages were being conveyed properly.
ABC said today that it received credit for anti-drug stories on "The Practice," "Home Improvement" and "General Hospital." The credits enabled ABC to sell commercial time that it was otherwise obligated to give to the government.
When the little-known Clinton administration effort came to light on Thursday, ABC said it had shown some scripts to the government but received no financial benefit.
Fili-Krushel said ABC decided not to participate this season because the government asked to see scripts before shows were aired. The previous year, government advisers were content to evaluate shows after they were broadcast, she said.
Instead, ABC is fulfilling its commitment to the government by airing free public service announcements.
The Office of National Drug Control Policy issued a statement tonight that said the federal government never suggested changes in scripts.
"Indeed, we have always assumed that any transcripts or programs submitted for public service value qualification were final products and not subject to further change," the statement said.
On Friday, Donald Vereen, deputy director of the drug office, said efforts to work with the networks had not been intrusive.
Fili-Krushel said ABC had not asked any of the producers and writers of its shows to do anything to bend to the government's wishes.