David Koch and PBS

PBS (Public Broadcasting Service) and NPR (National Public Radio) are not driven by the profit motive but they do need money to function and as such do depend on donors. This makes them vulnerable to pressure by their corporate sponsors and big donors and this has been documented in the past. I long ago stopped watching The NewsHour because of its corporate friendly approach, that I suspected was influenced by the high-profile corporate sponsors it had.

Now Jane Mayer of the New Yorker magazine has an article on how PBS’s dependence on largesse from one of the Koch brothers is influencing their programming decisions.

First of all, the executives at the New York PBS station WNET were apprehensive about a documentary that they had agreed to air Park Avenue: Money, Power and the American Dream which looked at one particular address in New York (740 Park Avenue) that housed many powerful people, including David Koch who served on their board, and went out of their way to pacify him in advance of the screening.

Then PBS decided to drop a documentary tentatively titled Citizen Koch that looked at the negative impact of the Citizens United court ruling that opened further the floodgates for money in politics, and which the Koch brothers have exploited heavily to advance their right-wing agenda. This was produced by the same group that produced the Park Avenue documentary.

PBS apparently failed in their attempts at mollifying Koch and he withdrew the promise of a large donation and resigned from the board of WNET.

The Koch brothers have the right to put their money wherever they want. But PBS should not be in the position of shaping their editorial decisions to mollify them. In the long run, Koch’s resignation may make them poorer but better.


  1. slc1 says

    There was a brouhaha several years ago when PBS put on a program about human evolution which was partially financed by the Koch brothers. The accusation was made that the contribution of human fossil fuel burning to global warming was downplayed because of that contribution.


  2. smrnda says

    As long as any medium of expression depends on wealthy benefactors, it will be propaganda.

  3. wtfwhatever says

    If you visit me and the radio is on, chances are you’ll be listening to NPR. Because I listen almost exclusively to NPR.

    Regardless, I wish NPR/PBS had much smaller impacts on the news industry.

    I remember a time when CBS/ABC/NBC the LA Times were proud of their global reach doing original, good, and valuable reporting around the world.

    There are many reasons these organizations have all shrunk dramatically, but I do think the ubiquity of NPR/PBS has allowed them to shrink, if only due to a moral argument at the board levels, “we can leave, NPR will still be there.”

    The problem is that now we are in pretty much a monoculture of news and information. Or if not monoculture than very limited diversity.

    There’s FOX right wing, NPR happy happy corporate news for “concerned” iYuppies, and ABC/CBS/NBC mediocre crapola all around.

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