WNET responds to report on funding for pension series

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New York’s WNET issued a statement responding to a PandoDaily article that scrutinized funding for its topical reporting series, The Pension Peril.  In the article, published Wednesday, reporter and columnist David Sirota argued that the WNET production was ethically tainted by undisclosed funding provided by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, which has a political agenda promoting public pension reform, the topic examined in its series.

WNET rebutted Sirota’s criticism that it sought to obscure the funding relationship. The Arnold Foundation’s support for the series was “clearly disclosed” on the PBS NewsHour Weekend broadcasts that have featured the Pension Peril segments, according to the station’s Feb. 12 statement. WNET also posted a compilation of opening credits to the three broadcasts, each of which mentioned the Arnold Foundation without directly linking it to the Pension Peril segments. In his response to WNET, Sirota observed that the credits provided “no explicit mentions of series sponsorship.”

“Our standards demand that no funder can have editorial control,” WNET added in its statement. “We do not consult with the Arnold Foundation — or any other underwriter — on our choice of stories and we offer reporting that is even-handed, transparent and thought-provoking.”

“This looks very bad for PBS,” wrote Felix Salmon for Reuters.

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