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But public television was eliminated because rates were too high, officials said, and Mr. King’s show was dropped because MSNBC held the potential to reach more viewers.

Still, when The Times first reported on the contract last month, one taxpayer watchdog group expressed concern both about the lack of jobs and the placement of ads on shows viewed as friendly to the administration’s policies.

“Taxpayers would be a lot happier at the end of the day to see a completed road rather than a bunch of ads on cable television,” said David Williams, president of the Taxpayers Protection Alliance.

Still, the use of tax dollars on media and advertising services has surfaced as a point of contention in Congress before, coming under sharp scrutiny from Democratic lawmakers during the George W. Bush administration.

In 2006, a Government Accountability Office study requested by Democrats found more than $1.6 billion in public relations and media spending by the Bush administration during a roughly two-year span.