PBS Ombud, Nova Disagree on Drone Disclosure
Nova screwed up, but as companies tend to do, it denies everything. FAIR reports:
PBS ombud Michael Getler (1/31/13) responded to FAIR activists who wrote to him about the recentNova special on drones (1/23/13) that was underwritten by Lockheed Martin, a major military contractor and drone manufacturer.
FAIR (Action Alert, 1/28/13) pointed out that this connection violatesPBS‘s guidelines concerning sponsorship and conflicts of interest.
Getler agreed, explaining that “the Lockheed funding does present a perception and commercial test problem for PBS. My feeling is that this particular program would have been much better off without Lockheed support.”
There was a further lack of disclosure. Getler noted that he
saw no mention of Lockheed when I watched the program online or when I looked at the Nova website. And there was never any mention of Lockheed in the body of the program, even though that huge defense company is heavily involved in drone development, which I didn’t know and I’m sure vast numbers of online viewers–unless they are in the Air Force or CIA–also probably did not know.
That lack of disclosure left Getler feeling “deceived by Nova“–though he noted that “Lockheed Martin was clearly identified on screen” as a funder in the broadcast version of the program.
Getler concluded by writing, “I think Nova handled this situation poorly and did not comply with the spirit, at least, of the guidelines when it came to being upfront with viewers.”
Nova thought otherwise. Its statement began:
WGBH fully adheres to PBS funding guidelines and takes our public trust responsibility very seriously. With regard to Nova “Rise of the Drones,” Lockheed Martin’s sponsorship of Nova is not a violation of the PBS underwriting guidelines.
Nova’s defense is that Lockheed “had no editorial involvement in the program.” But as the PBS guidelines make abundantly clear, this is not a defense at all. The fact that a funder’s interests exist is a problem–not just whether the funder interfered in the editorial content of the program: . . .