Baltimore paper questions underwriting practices at WYPR-FM

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Baltimore’s City Paper published an extensive look Wednesday at on-air underwriting practices at the city’s WYPR-FM, pointing out that the station fails to distinguish between underwriting and editorial content.

In the article, Edward Ericson Jr. cites numerous WYPR shows hosted by affiliates of for-profit and nonprofit organizations that pay for underwriting on the station. The relationships between the hosts and their organizations are not made clear to listeners. From the article:

In another show on WYPR, David Warnock touts the good work of the recipients of grants dispensed by the Warnock Foundation, its subsidiary “Baltimore Social Innovation Journal,” and nonprofits he chairs. The Warnock Foundation, unsurprisingly, is David Warnock’s personal project. He donates more than $200,000 a year, which is part of his earnings as a senior partner and co-founder of the venture capital firm Camden Partners.

The show is called “Baltimore’s Future.”

Nothing on Warnock’s weekly four-minute show mentions his finance company or its many corporate clients; it is relentlessly focused on the good that Warnock grant recipients and others are doing in the neighborhoods of Baltimore, and—by subtle extension—the good David Warnock is doing. Until very recently, the show was underwritten by the Warnock Foundation.

Ericson Jr. talked with former CPB ombudsman Joel Kaplan, who said, “It’s really inappropriate for a public radio station to sell itself to an underwriter like that.” Ericson also interviewed current and former station staff who criticize WYPR General Manager Tony Brandon for purposefully blurring the line between underwriting and editorial content.

Brandon declined to comment to the City Paper.

Read more: “Why So Much P.R.?: WYPR seems to routinely trade underwriting for air time. Is that a problem?

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