Monday, June 21, 2010

Keep your head down

So, i was looking for a topic this week and came across this article regarding PBS's underwriters: the companies or organizations that in part pay for a particular PBS program. In particular, PBS's NewsHour, which brings nightly news, has had underwriters in the oil industry, the banking industry, and in the agricultural industry. The tie-in for me is that the article is from PBS's ombudsman, basically someone PBS hires to make sure they are living up to ethical standards in journalism. I have a very good friend who works for the ombudsman. In fact, i'm going to forward this post to her and see if she has any comments. But don't be intimidated or feel like i'm stacking the deck. Remember, their job is basically to be a watchdog (or watchdawg if you're an MSU or UGA fan).

Click here for the article.

So here's the question. Do you think these advertisers could have a serious effect on Newshour, either directly or indirectly. The producers seem to advocate that no conflict of interest exists. What's your thoughts? Do you trust them? Should you trust them? And we're really not just talking about PBS here but all newsorgs. Have you ever thought about how advertisers could impact your local and national news?


Dixonville said...

Personally, I do not think these sponsors/underwriters/advertisers will have a seriously negative or positive effect on PBS. Those who have replied are biased in their reasoning as well, whether it is that they are small farmers unhappy with Monsanto or those upset because they are "rubbing elbows" with Bank of America and not local banks. The bottom line is this; PBS has to have sponsors to air its programs. As Flynn said, finding sponsors is not easy, and I would imagine once they find a sponsor, there is some type of legal contract entered between the two. But let's be honest, the old adage is true: "you can't please all of the people all of the time" and it isn't like the elementary school I work for accepting money from big tobacco companies or a local beer distributer. Any type of media, PBS especially, relies on their sponsors. I am sure it is next to impossible to find a squeaky clean company who has the money that the larger corporations have (not insinuating that all large corporations are not "reputable").

I think the bottom line is this, PBS has to decide themselves if the complaints of a few people, and in the case of the content of some of the letters, the loss of a few viewers is worth losing the sponsorship of certain corporations. Do I think that it is worth it? No, and I do not believe that these companies will harm PBS in anyway. As far as some of them "scaling back" their advertising (showing a logo as opposed to the normal way of showing sponsorship) let's be realistic. Exxon was in this same mess a little over 21 years ago and it came to be known as the "what not to do" situation in the Public Relations field. They probably know, because of the situation with BP, people will remember the Exxon Valdez oil spill as well, and it probably benefits them to "fade back" a little as well.

~Robin Dixon

gwendolyn said...

I do not think that these advertisers will have a negative effect directly or indirectly on the PBS. It is a situation that PBS has to deal with the best that they know how. They have to do what is best for them. If they think that these companies are good people to work with then that is what they should go with. Everyone is not going to be happy with decisions that a company makes, but if the company sees a profit from it then that is the way to go.

The programs vice president even said himself that they do not associate with companies that they think will do them dirty or that they have doubts about. Just because some viewers have issues with some of the partners does not give PBS a reason to drop them. I dont think there is no conflict of interest. Do you trust them? Yes. Should you trust them? Yes. I just dont see a problem with it. PBS is partnering with some big corportions that are issuing out money, no business is going to be completely clean, and your not going to please everybody. If the companies have not harmed PBS or made them question their doing business together then stay with it. But PBS needs to determine wheter they want to please some of their viewers or let some stay unsatisfied and go with what they have.

Gabe Browning said...

First off, Robin Dixon did a fantastic job of summarizing probably a great majority of people’s feelings on the matter. I can’t put it better than Robin did in the first comment. But hopefully I can add something to the discussion.

No question, in the public arena there is going to be unfair, biased reporting on part of the news media because of wealthy sponsors/advertisers. How do you get around this issue? Let’s remember, no money, no television, no news. Are news execs willing to jeopardize that relationship… probably not as often as we would like them to. Somebody has to foot the bill, and if not these deep pocketed contributors, then who? The American people? How would using tax dollars look to folks from Calgary and London? The word you’re looking for is “state ran” news source (think Iran or North Korea)! So there just doesn’t seem to be a way around this issue of money contributors affecting what news the public sees. The only surface exception I see is more contributions from households. But in the scheme of things, that would make all news services look like PBS. I don’t know if that would be a good thing. Quite honestly, I didn’t even know PBS had a news source.

I absolutely believe that we should have watch “dawgs” engaged in these relationships… an ethics committee if you will. If it’s good enough for congress, it’s good enough for television. I just don’t want to be the watchdog. It doesn’t interest me. Maybe I’m a bit too trusting. Or maybe I just don’t care that deeply about the issue. (I pick option 2.) I dare say the typical American doesn’t care either (obviously I’m not referring to Candace McGhee or Curt Smith.) We want to be entertained when we hear/see the news. We want cool graphs, holograms, interactive television screen, worldwide on-the-scene reporting, Jim Cantore standing out in 80 mph winds… and all that cost mega money. And I’m not willing to compete with Exxon Mobile, Monsanto, or BoA to provide that amount of cash to PBS, CNN, FOX, TWC, etc., to make that happen.

Ultimately the news is a business. And each business is being backed by a different mixture of contributors. If I branch out and read news from various sources, I’ll probably get a generalized overall view of what actually occurred. But, as we’ve learned we are never going to get away from biased reporting, rather it is individually, commercially, or all points in between.

Dixonville said...

Thank you, Gabe. I appreciate that. One thing I forgot to add is this: the people who "complained"...are they financially supporting PBS? If not, well honestly, they really don't have "a dog in the race." I trust PBS, yes. Do I think they are completely objective? No, but honestly I do not find any new program COMPLETELY objective. However, I do find them a reputable network.

Dr. Kevin D. Williams said...

hey guys,
like the comments. one thing i'd add to what ya'll are saying is that we as a nation hold very tightly to the idea of an objective press. Many foreign countries, like those in Europe, hold that you can have a democratic society with biased media. For example each party kind of has their own media source they use. The belief is that if you want competing views, you have to buy competing papers. Looking at how biased Fox News and MSNBC seem to be, i'm not so sure WE don't believe the same thing.

Neal Squires (nds79) said...

What is interesting about this article is that even PBS’s ombudsman writes four years prior that “it is always possible, of course, that an individual editor or producer within any news organization, knowing that a particular company is a financial supporter or big advertiser, will subtly try to soften a negative story without prompting from the company.” (Getler, 2006) It would seem that sponsor bias is something that will always overshadow news organizations. PBS is quick to point out that safeguards and barriers are in place to eliminate any such biases, but viewers will always have these possibilities floating around the back of their mind. While I do not feel that direct influence exists at PBS, I must agree with the ombudsman that bias may exist subtly at any news organization.
A fascinating study, published in November of 2009 in the Journal of Marketing, was conducted by Professors Diego Rinallo and Suman Basuroy between 2002 and 2003 on 291 Italian fashion companies and 123 multi-national magazine publishers. The researches hypothesized that “the more a company advertises in a given publisher, the greater is the coverage of its products in that publisher’s magazines.” (Rinallo & Basuroy, 2009) Their research revealed a positive correlation between advertising and receiving special treatment in magazines: “Whether because of overt pressures or an unconscious desire to please advertisers, publishers provide a special treatment to companies that, through their advertising investments, provide magazines with financial resources necessary for economic survival and market success.” I would agree with these two professors, in that new organizations, newspaper, magazines and general media as a whole depend on advertisers for their survival. The old adage, “don’t bite the hand that feeds you” applies to media as well. We all understand that the bottom line for any news organization is to make money. If they don’t make money, they are out of business. I think the moment we start believing that media is non-biased and free from advertisers influence, is when we lose sight of what really makes the world go round: money.
Implicitly trusting news organizations is a difficult thing for me. I tend to rationalize that certain news programs coverage is biased due to political leanings or sponsor’s money. For example, when I watch CNN, I view the content as trustworthy if your views are liberal leaning. The same holds true with Fox News on the opposite end of the political spectrum. In other words, I trust them but filter the content with associations and perceived biases that have been created. I may feel that, while I can trust what is being reported is accurate, the commentary that is associated is subtly softening or exaggerating the impact of the news based on the leanings of the editors.


Getler, M. (2006, August 11). "Underwriters," "Corporate Funders" & "Noncommercial" Public Television. Retrieved June 21, 2010, from

Rinallo, D., & Basuroy, S. (2009). Does Advertising Spending Influence Media Coverage of the Advertiser? Journal of Marketing , 33-46.

Dixonville said...

This is one of those times that I will agree with your statement, Dr. Williams. =) We do have "free press"...but unbiased? Hardly. Local channel's news programs, at least from what I see, offer the most "unbiased" news, and even then, you can see in their face/hear in the tone of their voice what they really feel. Not to mention, local news lacks the "WOW" of the big networks and other news stations. I'm a conservative, so I rarely watch CNN or MSNBC...I mostly watch local news and Fox. As Bernie Goldberg said, you can always find someone to report the way you want to hear it. That being said, I'll be the first to admit that Fox leans to the right. We do have a democratic society, and the freedom of speech/press of the first ammendment assures we all have a voice and a "media" in which to view the news how we would rather see it. Compared to some countries (Iran, Afganistan, etc.) we have very "unbiased" press. But in truth, I don't think I could name one program that was TRULY unbiased all of the time. Hey, watch Fox on Friday mornings when they put Geraldo Rivera on can almost hear the groans and moans of the audience =) Have a great week everyone!

pmm46 McDaniel said...

Knowing the background on companies such as Monsanto, and the mess they've made of the food industry using political power and government funding, I'd say there are definitely some motives behind their funding of such highly credible news programs. Mr. Flynn, the vice president for PBS, said that "they’ve given us no reason to question the motives behind their NewsHour funding," but it's not really the sponsors that I'm worried about - it's the person writing the story, or maybe not writing the story. I know that finding companies with deeper pockets than those such as Bank of America, BP, or Monsanto must be a enormous task, and I understand why they are taking the money. But, don't write an article telling me that their sponsorship has no corelation with the information released to the public. Is the Ombudsman trying to say that if a definite link between Monsanto products and cancer was uncovered that they would be the first to release it? I would venture to say that it wouldn't be released unless the sponsorship was dropped. The Ombudsman piece was well written, but I'm not buying it!

pmm46 McDaniel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Priscilla Davis said...

I think these advertisers could have a serious effect on Newshour, indirectly. People follow these kinds of stories, and will stop watching programs on a specific station if they become fed up. I guess the producers can be trusted ONLY to certain point, but they are all about the MONEY! Of course they will say there is no conflict of interest as long as they are satisfied and are still getting paid.

However, business is business. As long as PBS or any other company has contracted with a specific company and guidelines are being followed, they can't just write them off because somebody thinks so. Things happen all the time which causes each individual to have a certain a point of view, negative or positive. That's just like me not liking somebody and want everybody else to not like that person either.

Bottom line, PBS should continue to make sound decisions based on facts and not someone else's feelings. You can't please everbody. If they have a problem with PBS, they should move on.

Devonte Gardner said...

This issues comes down to money -- a nonprofit organization's quest to find funding and stay afloat. I hope the people who are complaining about PBS' affiliations do more than complain and actually donate their money to the channel. If it weren't for these big companies, we wouldn't have any public broadcasting. Who's going to finance PBS besides them? And it's not like the government has the money right now to help PBS. We're at two wars and just passed comprehensive health care reform. Something somewhere has to take a budget cut and PBS is low swinging fruit. We have a huge debt and the government can't fully fiance PBS by itself. PBS needs these big companies. I'm all about symbolically dissing large oil companies and whatnot, but not every thing an oil company does is wrong. At least their taking money away from their own self interests to fund public broadcasting. If PBS can't be ethical in their reporting because of their ties to these companies, then they need to start making more money.

I'm not even sure to the extent that PBS' news has been tainted by these large companies, because I've never watched PBS news, but even if it was tainted news, PBS is not a major source of news. They shouldn't even be involved in news because they don't have any power. They're non-profit, which puts them directly at the mercy of whoever funds them. I can't imagine them being completely unbiased in their reporting because they have no power. They're not going to be able to hire the best journalists either because they don't have the money to pay them. It's not surprising to see a situation come up like this with a nonprofit organization. Maybe PBS should downsize to save money and reduce their dependence on these large companies? That'd be the only way to silence their critics.

Kevin M Romero said...

I personally have never watched or even heard of PBS having a news broadcast. I have watched PBS, mostly as a child, and realize that broadcast stations that operate solely on donations must walk a very fine line. This fine line obviously means some bias. I don't believe that this bias would lead to false reporting, but maybe some under reporting. I believe that all reporting is based on the truth, whole truth, and nothing but the truth (based being the key word).
Sponsorships are the lifeblood for organizations like PBS. I think they are going to report on important issues even though some sponsor's may be offended. PBS proved this in 2006 when they reported on BP's badly corroded pipelines in Alaska, BP was the NewsHour sponsor at the time. If these sponsor's are offended by the truth then they have the right, just as PBS has the right, to pull the plug on their sponsorship.
Ultimately donations from the general public are not enough to fund a major broadcast network such as PBS and they are forced to seek Corporate sponsors. All corporations have someone that doesn't like them or distrust them, therefore someone will always find a reason to not like a network due to a sponsor. If you don't like the sponsor, don't use the sponsor's product, don't attempt to harm the organization that uses the sponsorship money for good reasons.
Kevin M Romero

CW said...
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Corey Wheeler said...

I think the advertisers "could" have an effect on Newshour, or any other news organization. I'm not saying they do, because I don't really know the answer to that question. I'm just saying that it's possible. I think there's always a chance that there is someone behind the scene pulling strings for their own purposes. It's probably more likely though, that these companies and PBS just share a mutually advantageous arrangement. PBS gets money to help fund their news show and the companies get to tell people about their company and why people should buy their product, use their services, or try to influence how people view them.

So, do I trust them? Not really, and I don't think they should be completely trusted. Maybe I just have trust issues, but I don't completely trust any news organization. I don't watch PBS, but I watch Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN and I don't totally trust any of them. I think they all have their own agendas, at least politically. None of them are really fair and balanced. I'm not saying that you can't still get good news from them. I'm just saying you have to be mindful of them and realize that while it may be the truth, it might not be the whole truth.

Scott Stewart said...

Another situation of "you're damned if you're do, and you're damned if you don't." There is no solution that PBS can apply that will make every one of their viewers happy. It's simply not possible. There will always be a few people who will complain about whatever sponsor they name. Since those few people can't equal the donations of these corporations, it would be impossible to walk away from their sponsorships. Doing so would result in a cancellation of these programs.

Regardless of the sponsorship, I don't see why people would be upset as long as the reporting is un-biased. Chevron's money is just as green as Google's or Microsoft's and as long as the story isn't affected by the sponsor. The way I see it, if I hated Exxon or Chevron, and PBS ran a story that was negative to the oil and gas industry, I would love it! PBS would be using their (Exxon or Chevrons) money against them!

My father had the chance to appear on the PBS Nova show a few years back as a ranch owner fighting the mining companies around our ranch in Idaho/Wyoming area. To be honest, that was the only news program that I have ever watched on PBS. I felt that the story was very fair for both parties and didn't see how a specific sponsor would have changed my view. I hope PBS doesn't hurt itself by subjecting themselves to the views of their few, outspoken viewers.

glenda kees said...

I don’t think they have a serious effect on PBS or Newshour directly or indirectly. I wouldn’t stop watching it because of the sponsors. They are just paying for advertisement and PBS or Newshour is not responsible for what happens outside of that. If they were actually selling products for the company that would cause a conflict, but right now I don’t see anything wrong. There is no conflict of interest; Newshours is being sponsored by them, not selling their products. From what I am reading they basically just show the logos of the companies that sponsor them. People are trying to causing a conflict by complaining about something that does not involve them.
At the moment I have no problem with them. It is not that I trust or don’t trust them. They haven’t done anything for me to have a thought of trust. Just because one company have a problem such as the Oil Spill Crisis does not make all the other companies bad. Advertising does have a big impact on the local and national news, because if something happen, consumers will not want to buy their products, for example I think the Toyota Company was having trouble selling some of their vehicles because of the brake problems on their vehicles.
If everyone was complaining I could see a problem, but there is always somebody complaining about something and you will never please everybody. The people who are complaining probably don’t even deal with these companies at all. That being the case you have to do what you thing is best. So I agree with the comments from Dixonville and Gwendolyn.

Andrew said...

Any time news in any form is paid for, whether broadcast or print, by advertising from companies and corporations, there is always an amount of skepticism when it comes to objectivity. Even more so for a PBS type of news program, where all its content is "underwritten" by companies.

It can be the toughest for local news stations, who depend heavily on local businesses for the majority of their revenue. As most TV markets are either small or mid-sized (markets 76 and below), stations in these smaller towns need the bigger companies and corporations to support them with advertising.

By reading the PBS Ombudsman artice with the viewer comments, clearly the public suspects a direct and indirect negative influence by advertisers and news content. This puts the stations, local and national, in a huge bind, since it isn't always easy to replace advertising if a company doesn't like what's being reported, truth or not.

At one station I worked at, I've had several instances where I was told my station management how to report on a story, and also I was not allowed to report on a story because it involved our advertisers. This station, in southern Idaho, depended heavily on the presence of the LDS church, and was told several times "No" to reporting facts that would have hurt the church's image.

-Andrew Logsdon

Ageyer said...

There is an old saying “follow the money,” which essentially means if you want to know who is pulling the strings and making the decisions find the person or people who are paying the bills. Advertisers have a huge influence over the views of a certain program or over an entire network. An extreme example is displayed by asking the question, who funds Al Qaeda? We all know that it is Osama Bin Laden. We also know that since he is financing Al Qaeda his followers will carry out his objectives which are to terrorize America. Advertisers and network owners have the same effect over their employees and the programming their networks provide. I don’t fully trust the media for this reason. Whether you’re a liberal or a conservative, the media outlets that cater to these ideologies still have hidden agenda’s. I try to watch the news and listen to the radio with an open mind. I watch MSNBC and Foxnews, because I know somewhere in the middle I can find pieces of the truth.

-Aaron Geyer

H. Michelle Awtry said...

If it weren't for it's sponsors, PBS wouldn't survive. I don't think that who supports what in articles like this really have an impact on the public - good or bad. It's still up to the company (in the case PBS) to relay a somewhat unbiased opinion on topics and it's also up to us as the public to use common sence and logic when looking to blame someone for events such as the disaster in the Gulf. Saying that someone could effect this company in a positive or negative way insinuates that we can't think for ourselves and that we are counting on someone else's opinion or view to decide how we believe. I think we should research for ourselves, make our own decisions and read articles or listen to news with an open mind.
By the way, we'd all be surpriesd to learn what companies backed other companies out there - I'm sure we'd all be shocked at some.
H. Michelle Awtry

Angela Williams said...

I think that advertisers can
and will have some sort of effect whether its directly or indirectly. Viewers are going to form their own opinions whether they are good or bad. Yes, as Dixonville said people are going to biased in their opinions. PBS has to decide on whether it can live with the feedback they receive. They pretty much have to. It is true, PBS has to rely on its sponsors and they are going to just have to trust them. I would have to trust them. That doesn't mean that I should, but I would just have to trust that they are going to do their job and that they are going to do and say what is in the best interest of the company when it comes to advertising for them.

I have never really thought about how advertisers could impact my news because I never have been in that situation, but it is definitely something to think about and be cautious of.

TiffanyS said...

I don't thing that the underwriters have a big effect on PBS or anyone for that matter. There is always going to be someone that is unhappy with something, and that is what is going to cause them to stop watching. The majority of people are going to keep watching no matter who is sponsoring/advertising, because most people don't pay much attention anyway. They simply want to here the news that is all.

Bottom line is PBS and others have to have sponsors, and they are going to basically take what they can get. If that means loosing a few viewers, then so be it. But, if for some reason they had gone down to very few viewers, then they would re-evaluate who they let be there sponsors. Until that happens, I don't think they have much to worry about.

Tiffany Simmons

trinam24 said...

Yes! I most definitely think that advertisers do have a serious direct effect on Newshour. The bottom line is that the advertisers are sponsoring Newshour and as stated by the program's vice president, "Its not as though others are out there standing in line". PBS is not going to jeopardize losing a big sponsor by reporting in depth on critical issues that would cast a negative shadow on their sponsors!
As with Newshour, they did report on the oil spill at length, however, I am pretty sure that Newshour didn't take a nose dive into probing into what happened, what's happening now, and what will happen in the future concerning BP and the explosion/spill.

Previous to this article, I had not considered the impact that advertisers have on local and national news, but there is an impact. While programs may report on issues that directly or indirectly relate to their sponosors, I don't think they do as much in depth reporting as they would do on issues that don't cast a negative light on their sponsors.

Kate said...

PBS has spent years working to gain the trust of their audience, and I don’t think they are going to let a sponsor give viewers a reason to question their journalistic integrity. PBS has an audience of loyal fans who expect to hear thoughtful and thought-provoking stories. I do think that other news organizations fall into a different category. Maybe the line is drawn differently because PBS is receiving donations, not necessarily advertising revenue. Sure, oil companies are not giving them funds to make themselves feel better, but they are giving money to a news organization that has yet to compromise a story over funding.

There is no doubt that advertising can affect a news program. For a long time, it seemed reporters were protected from those advertisers, but things may be different now.

In regards to the other issue of biasness in the news, I think Americans still value news that is unbiased. I also think our culture has enjoyed the upsurge in recent programs that take stronger political stances, but most people recognize those shows for what they are – political programs. Those programs have become an entertainment industry. In an interview with Rush Limbaugh, he openly admitted that he was in the business of telling his listeners what they wanted to hear. I have always held the belief that the media should be liberal. Not necessarily liberal as in being Democrats, but liberal in the philosophy of wanting change and progress. The media is there to report on the facts and information and to inspire us to take that information and do something with it. Nothing in this world, much less our country, should stay the same forever.

Joy said...

I 100 percent agree with Dr. Williams' statement about having biased media. I don't know how many times I have gotten frustrated with the strong left opinions of MSNBC and the right opinions of Fox News. I also think that most people air towards the side of the media that they connect with most. My parents, for example, prefer the opinions of Fox News where my husband prefers the opinions of MSNBC. I would just like the facts, so I enjoy watching Newhour because I don't feel that there is a slant in one direction or another.
I do think, though, that there is one very important underlying difference between media outlets like Fox News and that of PBS. PBS is a non-profit organization and the equity that companies like BP or Bank of America get from sponsoring PBS is drastically different from the equity gained from investing dollars in for-profit media outlets like Fox News or MSNBC. The donation to PBS is more of a charitable contribution and therefore is intended to advance the longevity of the non-profit organization. This contribution shows that corporation are cultural stewards in the communities that they live and work. Adverting dollars that companies like BP or Bank of America or any other large corporation might pay to support MSNBC in many instances could very well slant the editorial opinions on theses news outlets. Corporations pay advertising dollars to for-profit organizations in order to have those media outlets present them in the most favorable light; thereby increasing the bottom lines of both groups (the media outlet and the corporation). You can see that the expected return on investment from these two types (both to profit and non-profit organizations) is vastly different.
Right, wrong or indifferent that is how the cycle works. I have worked in Fortune 500 companies for the last 10 years and see these decisions and transactions happen on a daily basis and do clearly understand the difference between what we want to achieve from charitable contributions and what we want to achieve by paying media outlets for favorable advertising.

ChandraWalker said...

I don't think that the underwriters can have an overall negative effect on PBS. It is understood that this station is supported by underwriters, whom provide a means for the programs that are presented.At the end of the day PBS is still responsible for providing unbiased journalism to their viewers. I don't think they will allow their underwriters compromise their 30 years of credibility.
However, one can only wonder what compromises are made to sustain a good relationship with the supporters and their loyal viewers. Especially when they have expressed the difficulty and long process it takes to agree on a sponsor and all that comes with being associated with them.
As long as there isn't a change in the delivery of information and the station keeps their firm stance about who is the gatekeeper, then I feel everything will be fine.

JoycieW. said...

I also don’t think that these advertisers will have a negative effect directly or indirectly on the PBS. Due to the massive mess that is going on in the Gulf today, anyone that comes into contact with any part of this company will have great impact on the networks future, but you have to be realistic about the situation.

News from the beginning of time has money to operate. Without the money from these companies, PBS and other news organizations would not survive. Since we now know where the money is coming from, we have a problem with it. Does it may matter? I don’t think so, when the money is being used for a good cause.

My sister and I were discussing this question. She was no, no don’t take the money. I then asked her, who’s an elementary teacher, if your school books were purchased by a company who you later found out had ties with BP, would you return the books or keep them? She said, keep them. I asked her what the difference was. She could not answer.

In the past, we never questioned where advertising money come from. I think is this case, people are more emotionally involved. As H. Michelle stated, we’d all be surprised to learn what companies backed other companies. We'd be very surprised.

S.Webb said...

In consideration of the sponsorship of public broadcasting on PBS’s NewsHour by large corporations such as Chevron and Monsanto, I do not feel that these advertisers actually have an impact either directly or indirectly in the content of the programming. I agree with NewsHour’s vice president that the organization has worked too hard for too long to engage in any type of activity that might compromise the integrity of their programming or give their viewers just cause for distrust. The very basis of public broadcasting in the United States is that the programming be fair and unbiased. There are many watchdogs – like the many citizens who wrote emails of complaint to the ombudsman – that would immediately call PBS’s hand over any behavior that would jeopardize this most basic premise, and I have no doubt that the strong public outcry that would result would keep PBS in check.

In this situation of corporate sponsorship of PBS programming, I really do not believe a conflict of interest exists. I concur that this is simply a case where PBS, a not-for-profit organization, is striving to maintain their ability to provide public broadcasting by seeking the support of advertisers who can afford to sponsor their programs and who are willing to adhere to PBS’s strict advertising guidelines. I believe the name recognition and face time these companies get from advertising to NewsHour’s audience is enough motivation for the companies to want to take part in the sponsorship of the show.

I do, and will continue, to trust PBS to provide fair coverage and reporting on various issues until there is concrete evidence and examples that lead me to alter my beliefs. Bearing this in mind, I do feel that most other news networks are biased toward one political affiliation or another. This doesn’t cause me to distrust other news networks, but instead challenges me to look at the issues being reported objectively, researching and exploring all sides of any particular issue, and forming my own opinion or belief based on my own observations.

I do see how crucial advertisers might be able to sway news networks to bias coverage of certain issues toward their favor, and I can believe that this actually occurs in some situations. However, I still maintain that the attentive citizens in the general public who rely on PBS to provide them with solid, impartial coverage of current events that affect our society apply enough pressure to PBS to ensure that the organization keeps its nose clean and refrains from allowing corporate sponsors to influence their programming. The organization simply has too much at stake not to remain neutral.

Cornela357 said...

To answer the question do advertisers influence Newshour on PBS, the answer is no. PBS is a network that relies on advertisers, and the advertisers rely on PBS to be honest on what they report. PBS is a network that has a national circulation without the funds other networks have in their back pocket. To think that this particular network could be influenced by its sponsors is a logical thought. But, to believe that a station that prides itself on stating the facts and limited commentary would sellout to please its sponsors is going against the reason why we tune in on a nightly basis.
As for other newsorgs, of course they lean toward the majority feeling of the paying advertisors. FOX News is a huge example. The likelihood of seeing one of CNN-type reports on FOX News will be a cold day in you know where. Their supports pay to have their platform displayed front and center. After all, all news to any newsorg is politics anyway.

Tyler Thomas said...

I believe that having these sponsors will not negatively impact PBS. As mentioned in an earlier post, these sponsors are needed for the broadcast. With the difficulty in finding enough sponsors, it is necessary to utilize all that you can. With all media, the viewer has to make the decision as to whether or not agree with the viewings.

I feel that there are far more important issues to worry about within the broadcast. With the few people that oppose the sponsorship, it does not take away from everything else that is broadcast through PBS. In my opinion, the executives are aware of the oppositions and understand what should and should not be done.