3 thoughts on “Survey finds ‘areas of sensitivity’ in foundation support for nonprofit news

  1. It is ironic that many in the general viewing and listening public think taking corporate underwriting for news and documentary programs is corrupting, but that foundation support is good. Actually, in my experience, corporate underwriters have far less influence over topics and coverage than foundations do, and are far more likely to be hands-off. Foundations have their own mission and agenda, and fund projects that they think will advance that agenda. It gets very complicated when a foundation with a narrow focus, say for argument sake tropical flora and fauna, provides a grant for news coverage of tropical flora and fauna. The result can be increased coverage of TF&F beyond what its general news-worthiness is. We can point to real life examples as well. On the other hand, over many years I can count on the fingers of one hand the times a corporate underwriter tried to influence what was covered and how. And then it was only after the fact, in response to coverage that they thought was unfair or unbalanced. They always have the right to take their advertising dollars elsewhere, and I suppose some do, But generally, they understand the deal.

    I’m not addressing self-censorship, which can be real, and exists in media of all types, including public media.

    • I sometimes think that some public media supporters, whether right or wrong, think that foundations are making donations for the public good because they’re not-for-profits while corporations are just trying to get their ads to an audience that won’t watch or listen to the places where ads are legit. Never mind that when Mobil was underwriting “Masterpiece Theatre” and when the underwriting rules changed to let them pitch Mobil Supreme or Mobil 1 on the show, they still stuck with Christopher Sarson saying “‘Mahsterpiece Theatah’ is made pawsible by a grawnt from Mobil…” and made their extra message just a request to support the local stations. (And that they ended their support of PBS because of the new management after the merger with Exxon.)

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