Sunday, March 09, 2014

High Noon

David Sirota wrote an excellent piece outlining how The Newshour, on PBS, is actually half owned by a private media group that is in turn owned by an a bazillionaire right winger. So our pledge money is going to support activities we most rail against. I'm wondering why we didn't know this years ago.

With public broadcasting officials refusing to answer questions about its pending ownership transfer deal with Liberty Media, Pando requested basic information about the existing financial and editorial contract between Liberty Media, MacNeil-Lehrer Productions, WETA and the hundreds of PBS stations that air the NewsHour. More specifically, we asked exactly how much money taxpayers spend each year to subsidize the show’s whopping $28-million-a-year budget, and what kind of editorial control PBS has over the Liberty Media property.

In response, a MacNeil-Lehrer Productions spokesperson revealed that “PBS funding represents roughly half the PBS NewsHour revenue budget.” By that count, every year approximately $14 million of public money goes to the for-profit Liberty Media’s subsidiary through the non-profit PBS. However, the spokesperson provided no documentary evidence of that, nor did she even permit Pando to review the existing contract between WETA and Liberty Media. When asked how that squares with the CPB’s demands for transparency, the MacNeil-Lehrer Productions spokesperson said: “Contracts between funders and producers are not public.”