PBS To Return Grant From Hedge Fund

Late Friday, the PBS ombudsman, Michael Getler, weighed in, (external - login to view) saying Mr. Sirota’s article shined a light on “what seems to me to be ethical compromises in funding arrangements and lack of real transparency for viewers.”

WNET, the New York City public television broadcaster, said on Friday that it would return a $3.5 million grant it received to sponsor an ambitious project on public pensions in the face of charges that it solicited inappropriate underwriting for the series.
In the absence of the funding from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, the project, called “Pension Peril,” will go on hiatus, although WNET will continue to report on the topic. The series, which began in September, was examining the economic sustainability of public pensions.

Earlier, after a critical report (external - login to view) on Wednesday by David Sirota on the website PandoDaily, WNET officials said they were comfortable with the foundation’s funding. Mr. Sirota sharply criticized WNET for accepting the Arnold Foundation money because John Arnold, a former hedge fund manager, has financially backed efforts to persuade municipalities to cut public employee pension benefits. On its website, the foundation said that for three years it “has encouraged governments to face the true magnitude of their pension problems and to develop structural reforms that are comprehensive, sustainable and fair.”

In a joint statement from PBS and WNET, PBS said it stood by WNET’s reporting in the series but “in order to eliminate any perception on the part of the public, our viewers and donors that the foundation’s interests influenced the editorial integrity of the reporting for this program,” WNET would return the gift.

www.nytimes.com/2014/02/15/bu...ries.html?_r=0 (external - login to view)
Without funding from the Koch brothers, whom the lefties hate, the lights at PBS and NPR would go dark.
Last month, in response to Pando’s revelations that anti-pension mogul John Arnold secretly was financing PBS’s “Pension Peril” series, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting issued a scathing report (external - login to view) demanding immediate reform. Criticizing “the lack of transparency” at PBS, CPB’s ombudsman Joel Kaplan declared that public broadcasting outlets must let the public access details of their financial dealings.

So how’s that new commitment to transparency going?

Here’s how: Once again, a PBS flagship station is in the process of negotiating a deal with a politically active mogul. Once again, the deal involves the NewsHour — the same iconic PBS program that stealthily promoted Arnold’s anti-pension programming. And once again, PBS is refusing to disclose the deal’s financial details to the public.

The major difference this time is that this new story of secrecy isn’t about who funds the journalism on the NewsHour. It is about who actually owns the NewsHour.

Most Americans likely assume that the NewsHour (which, after all, is made with support from viewers like you) is actually owned and produced by PBS. It is an understandable assumption considering PBS’s own president declared that the NewsHour “is ours, and ours alone,” (external - login to view) and further considering that the program receives millions of public dollars every year.

However, since 1994, the NewsHour has been produced and primarily owned by the for-profit colossus, Liberty Media. Liberty, which is run by conservative billionaire John Malone, owns the majority stake in MacNeil/Lehrer Productions – the entity that produces the journalistic content of the show. While other standalone public television projects are often produced by small independent production companies, the NewsHour stands out for being owned by a major for-profit media conglomerate headed by a politically active billionaire.

But now that ownership is about to change. According to an internal memo sent to staff by NewsHour’s founders and minority owners Robert MacNeil and Jim Lehrer, ownership of NewsHour will soon be transferred from Liberty Media to Washington, D.C.’s PBS member station, WETA.


After pledging transparency, PBS hides details of new deal with billionaire owner of NewsHour | PandoDaily (external - login to view)

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