Did the Federal Government Once Secretly Pay TV Networks For Having Anti-Drug Messages in Shows?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about TV and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the TV urban legends featured so far.

TV URBAN LEGEND: The federal government once secretly paid TV networks for having anti-drug messages in episodes of their shows.

We are all familiar with TV shows working with the United States government to have special “Anti-drug” episodes. This was particularly the “in” thing to do when Nancy Reagan was the First Lady, as she made a big deal about appearing on popular sitcoms among kids to promote her anti-drug programs. Here she is with Gary Coleman from an anti-drug episode of Diff’rent Strokes…

And here’s an episode of Punky Brewster that tied in with the First Lady’s “Just Say No” campaign…

That’s all well and good, but what if the government got involved more surreptitiously? That was the case with an anti-drug program that came about towards the end of Bill Clinton’s presidency that unintentional led to a bizarre situation where the government was effectively secretly paying TV networks for having anti-drug messages in their shows. Read on to see how it all went down!
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