PBS Ombudsman: did funding compromise editorial content of Human Heart?

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“What I didn’t do at the time, yet should have in my ombudsman’s role, was pay much attention to the main sponsors of the series [The Mysterious Human Heart],” writes PBS’s Michael Getler. In a letter to the ombudsman, Jeffrey Chester, director of the Center for Digital Democracy, asked, “how PBS (and presenting station Thirteen/WNET in New York) sought and publicly promoted the involvement of Medtronic and AstraZeneca as underwriters? As you know, both Medtronic and AstraZeneca have major commercial interests involving heart disease related medical issues.” Another viewer wrote, “Viewers are told that the best treatment for certain potentially deadly heart arrhythmias is an implantable pacemaker. Who’s the leading manufacturer of such devices? Medtronic, of course.” Getler includes responses from PBS, WNET/Thirteen and producer David Grubin, and concludes: “the seeming inappropriateness of funders for a number of programs” continues to be an issue for pubTV, and “It may be that this problem is never going to be resolved until some different funding scheme for public television is arrived at.”

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