20. "THE CAR BOOK" AND OTHER CENSORED PUBLIC INFORMATION

Each year some 50,000 Americans lose their lives on U.S. highways and millions more are injured in automobile accidents. Yet, in 1981, the Reagan administration, under pressure from the auto industry, censored a government publication that might have helped reduce the highway slaughter.

The publication was called The 1982 Car Book. It would have provided the consumer with vital and free information about how cars perform in crash tests, cars with low maintenance costs, fuel efficient cars, cars with insurance breaks, safe child car seats, tire brand comparisons, and a list of major auto recalls.

The American people paid for and wanted the information. The 1981 edition was one of the most popular federal, publications ever issued with more than 1.6 million copies distributed. After the 1982 edition was cancelled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, it was privately published and sold 45,000 copies at $ 4.95 each within a few months.

The administration's censorship wasn't limited to auto safety information. The Department of Energy tried to suppress a government report which didn't support Reagan's energy policy. The report, titled "A New Prosperity: Building a Substantial Energy Future," called for greater emphasis on energy efficiency measures and energy drawn from renewable resources. Asked about the report, Carol Bauman, deputy press secretary for Reagan's Energy Secretary James Edwards, said "There were a lot of reports that we were trying to repress it, which just isn't true; there simply weren't copies available." Nonetheless, a small New England publisher printed 7,500 copies for sale.

Nor was the administration's censorship limited to publications. On Sunday, March 14, 1982, three films, produced by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, were premiered in San Francisco in a program titled "Banned by Reagan." According to S.F. Chronicle film critic Judy Stone, they were "packed with honest-to-God dramas of life and death." Titled "OSHA," "Worker to Worker," and "Can't Take No More," the films documented occupational safety and health hazards in America.

The Reagan administration's blatant efforts to censor vital information paid for by the public and the limited press coverage given the subject qualifies this for nomination as one of the 'best censored" stories of 1981.

SOURCES:

The Car Book, 1961, U.S. Department of Transportation; Santa Rosa Press Democrat (AP), 12/7/81, "'The Car Book Survives Execution; " Publishers Weekly, 5/22/81, "Energy Publisher Issues Controversial Federal Study;" Washington Journalism Review, 3/82, "OMB Says 'Stop the Presses', by Fred Vallejo; S.F. Chronicle, 3/13/82, "Films That Were 'Banned by Reagan', " by Judy Stone.