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Sirota writes: "The news of PBS actively soliciting financing from billionaire political activists - and custom tailoring original program proposals for those financiers - follows a wave of damning revelations about the influence of super-wealthy political interests over public broadcasting."

Sirota: 'In PBS's current iteration of the scheme, private special-interest money is now financing prepackaged news reports.' (illustration: Hallie Bateman)
Sirota: 'In PBS's current iteration of the scheme, private special-interest money is now financing prepackaged news reports.' (illustration: Hallie Bateman)

Revealing the Secret Corruption Inside PBS's News

By David Sirota, PandoDaily

14 February 14


n December 18th, the Public Broadcasting Service's flagship station WNET issued a press release announcing the launch of a new two-year news series entitled "The Pension Peril." The series, promoting cuts to public employee pensions, is airing on hundreds of PBS outlets all over the nation. It has been presented as objective news on major PBS programs including the PBS News Hour.

However, neither the WNET press release nor the broadcasted segments explicitly disclosed who is financing the series. Pando has exclusively confirmed that "The Pension Peril" is secretly funded by former Enron trader John Arnold, a billionaire political powerbroker who is actively trying to shape the very pension policy that the series claims to be dispassionately covering.

The Wolf of Sesame Street

In recent years, Arnold has been using massive contributions to politicians, Super PACs, ballot initiative efforts, think tanks and local front groups to finance a nationwide political campaign aimed at slashing public employees' retirement benefits. His foundation which backs his efforts employs top Republican political operatives, including the former chief of staff to GOP House Majority Leader Dick Armey (TX). According to its own promotional materials, the Arnold Foundation is pushing lawmakers in states across the country "to stop promising a (retirement) benefit" to public employees.

Despite Arnold's pension-slashing activism and his foundation's ties to partisan politics, Leila Walsh, a spokesperson for the Laura and John Arnold Foundation (LJAF), told Pando that PBS officials were not hesitant to work with them, even though PBS's own very clear rules prohibit such blatant conflicts. (note: the term "PBS officials" refers interchangeably to both PBS officials and officials from PBS flagship affiliate WNET who were acting on behalf of the entire PBS system).

To the contrary, the Arnold Foundation spokesperson tells Pando that it was PBS officials who first initiated contact with Arnold in the Spring of 2013. She says those officials actively solicited Arnold to finance the broadcaster's proposal for a new pension-focused series. According to the spokesperson, they solicited Arnold's support based specifically on their knowledge of his push to slash pension benefits for public employees.

The foundation's spokesperson said PBS executives approached Arnold "with the proposal for the series, having become aware of LJAF's interest" in shaping public pension policy, and moving that policy toward cutting retirement benefits for public workers.

According to newly posted disclosures about its 2013 grantmaking, the Laura and John Arnold Foundation responded to PBS's tailored proposal by donating a whopping $3.5 million to WNET, the PBS flagship station that is coordinating the "Pension Peril" series for distribution across the country. The $3.5 million, which is earmarked for "educat(ing) the public about public employees' retirement benefits," is one of the foundation's largest single disclosed expenditures. WNET spokesperson Kellie Specter confirmed to Pando that the huge sum makes Arnold the "anchor/lead funder of the initiative." A single note buried on PBS's website - but not repeated in such explicit terms on PBS airwaves - confirms that the money is directly financing the "Pension Peril" series.

With PBS's "Pension Peril" series echoing many of the same pension-cutting themes that the Arnold Foundation is promoting in the legislative arena, and with the series not explicitly disclosing the Arnold financing to PBS viewers, the foundation's spokesperson says her organization is happy with the segments airing on stations throughout the country. However, she says the foundation reserves "the ability to stop funding" the series at any time "in the event of extraordinary circumstances."

The news of PBS actively soliciting financing from billionaire political activists - and custom tailoring original program proposals for those financiers - follows a wave of damning revelations about the influence of super-wealthy political interests over public broadcasting. Thanks to collusion with PBS executives, those monied interests are increasingly permitted to launder their ideological and self-serving messages through the seeming objectivity of public television.

The stealth Arnold-PBS connection, however, represents a major escalation in the larger trend. In this particular case, PBS seems to be defying its own rules and regulations about conflicts of interest. At the same time, the fact that PBS is obscuring the financial arrangement suggests the network may be deliberately attempting to hide those conflicts from its own viewers.

An affront to PBS rules about "pre-ordained conclusions"

As a taxpayer-funded entity, PBS's official rules clearly prohibit the funding of programming by a benefactor who "has asserted, or has the right to assert, editorial control over a program." Those rules also do not allow programming to be funded by a benefactor who is "pre-ordaining the conclusion the viewer should draw from the materials presented."

The Arnold Foundation refused to share with Pando the details of its PBS agreement, but denied that it has editorial control over the "Pension Peril" series. However, as mentioned, the foundation reiterated that it reserves the right to cut off funding under the "extraordinary circumstances." It is possible that loosely defined phrase may allow the foundation to halt funding if it does not like the ideological tenor of the PBS pension coverage it is financing. Such a hovering threat would seem to represent at least de facto editorial influence.

For PBS's part, WNET officials refused to provide any details of the Arnold Foundation-PBS contract with a spokesperson telling Pando that "such agreements are always confidential." This refusal came despite PBS being a public institution that watchdog groups insist is subject to Freedom of Information Act regulations.

Whether or not the foundation has direct editorial control of PBS news content, the series still appears to violate PBS's rules against "pre-ordained" conclusions.

For example, the series' title - Pension Peril - is the oft-repeated ideological buzzphrase of anti-pension campaigners. It also inherently pre-ordains the Arnold Foundation's conclusion that public pension shortfalls are an imminent emergency ("peril"), even though data prove that is not the case. To the contrary, as the Center for Economic and Policy Research notes, the shortfalls are "less than 0.2 percent of projected gross state product over the next 30 years" and "even in the cases of the states with the largest shortfalls, the gap is less than 0.5 percent of projected state product." That's far less than the amount state and local governments are spending on corporate subsidies. As McClatchy Newspapers has noted: "There's simply no evidence that state pensions are the current burden to public finances that their critics claim."

Yet, from the Arnold Foundation's publications to the Arnold-funded "Pension Peril" series, those subsidies are not labeled an emergency by PBS programming, but pensions are.

Similarly, in each episode of the Arnold/PBS series that has aired, the reporting has followed the Arnold Foundation's rhetorical lead by forwarding the idea that pension benefit cuts should be the primary policy solution to public budget problems. It does this by promoting the need for cuts to guaranteed retirement incomes and/or by refusing to mention that pension shortfalls are dwarfed by the amount state and local governments collectively spend each year on corporate subsidies (many of which do not create jobs).

For instance, in the series' debut report in November for the nationally aired NewsHour, PBS trumpeted the Netherlands decision "to make cuts to payments they made to pensioners." The program then contrasted that with American public employees, who the PBS correspondent said "are guaranteed a set payment no matter whether (pension) funds are there or not." That latter statement is belied by various examples of governments reneging on their pension promises to U.S. public employees.

Likewise, in the "Pension Peril" series' follow up report for the NewsHour on Illinois pension cuts, PBS staged a one-on-one interview with an Associated Press reporter who insisted that the state is being bankrupted by pension obligations. AP correspondent Sara Burnett said:

In order to make these payments each year, as you mentioned in the intro, the state is putting about 20 cents of every taxpayer dollar into the pension funds. That's money that could be going to schools. There are social service agencies that have not been paid what the state owes them for months at a time. They've got a multi—I think it's close to eight billion dollar backlog of unpaid bills sitting in Springfield waiting to be paid because there isn't money to do it.

Yet, like the Arnold Foundation's pension policy papers, both PBS's "Pension Peril" correspondent and the AP reporter did not mention that according to budget data, pension shortfalls in Illinois are far smaller than the amount the state is spending on expensive taxpayer subsidies to corporations. Indeed, there is - and has been - plenty of money for Illinois to pay its "unpaid bills." The state is just choosing to spend that money on huge subsidies to corporations like Sears and Google rather than paying its bills or making its required pension payments.

Up next was a politically timed "Pension Peril" segment just two weeks before the inauguration of New York mayor Bill de Blasio. In the discussion decrying the New York City's pension shortfall as "unsustainable," PBS did not mention that the city is so flush with cash it spends a stunning $4 billion a year on economic development subsidies. In recent years, it has put taxpayers on the hook for $458 million for professional sports stadiums and hundreds of millions of dollars more for the construction of lavish office towers for Goldman Sachs and Bank of America.

Then came the "Pension Peril" segment that aired on the NewsHour on February 8th. The piece trumpeted a Vallejo, California city councilor who voted to slash pension benefits for her city's public employees.

The piece cited Vallejo's budget deficit as rationale for cutting pensions, but did not mention that California's $45 billion in annual tax expenditures and its $4 billion in annual corporate subsidies (many of them wasteful) are much bigger than the pension shortfalls its state and local governments face. Additionally, the piece did not mention that the state's retirement system this year posted huge gains, helping it continue to recover from losses incurred during the financial collapse of 2008.

But most troubling of all, the report on Vallejo promoted the city councilor's "campaigning to change (state) law to give cities the right to negotiate for pension cuts." PBS's "Pension Peril" correspondent noted that the legislator's coalition is "hoping to get the initiative onto the ballot" so that cities can unilaterally cut public employee pensions. What the PBS "Pension Peril" series omitted is the fact that the "Pension Peril" series' own benefactor, John Arnold, is the major financier of the very California ballot initiative PBS was promoting. Arnold's involvement in that ballot measure follows his earlier funding of pension-cutting advocacy in California, which PBS also did not mention.

Violating regulations about "interests"

Along with barring editorial control and program financing from funders who want to "pre-ordain" conclusions, PBS's rules also state that "when there exists a clear and direct connection between the interests… of a proposed funder and the subject matter of the program, the proposed funding will be deemed unacceptable regardless of the funder's actual compliance with the editorial control provisions."

As one example, PBS says "a series of documentaries, interviews, and commentary on the subject of drug abuse would not be accepted if funded by a special purpose nonprofit corporation whose principal mission is to foster the understanding of drug-related community programs." As another example, PBS says "a nonprofit organization whose mission is to eradicate heart disease or to raise money for leukemia research could not fund a program designed to educate the public about these respective illnesses."

Yet, despite these rules, PBS has solicited and accepted millions of dollars specifically for pension-focused reporting from the Arnold Foundation, whose core mission is about "work(ing) actively in the area of public employee benefits reform" and convincing the public that "the way to create a sound, sustainable and fair retirement savings program is to stop promising a benefit" to public workers.

When asked about these clear violations of PBS's own rules, WNET's spokesperson would only say: "WNET and other PBS producers approach some foundations, and not others, for support of particular projects. We follow PBS rules in every particular."

Obscuring the Arnold connection

On its website, PBS notes that both its own rules and Federal Communications Commission regulations require full disclosure of all funding sources for programming on the public's airwaves. For all content, "All underwriters must be identified in video by their name and/or logo," says PBS guidelines. Additionally, for programs dealing specifically with "controversial issues" like pension cuts, PBS notes that its own rules and FCC regulations require more explicit disclosure.

Despite those rules and regulations, though, Pando could find no explicit disclosure in any PBS "Pension Peril" episodes that the series is directly financed by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, much less that the foundation's benefactor, John Arnold, is one of the nation's biggest financiers of the ongoing legislative push to slash public pension benefits.

Likewise, while the PBS News Hour has occasionally mentioned the Arnold Foundation in a long list of funders at the very end of its show, it has not mentioned the foundation's specific financing of pension-related content or the "Pension Peril" segments; it has not mentioned the Arnold Foundation in introducing or concluding those particular segments; and it has not disclosed the Arnold Foundation's ongoing legislative advocacy in the national debate over pension policy.

Additionally, WNET did list the Laura and John Arnold Foundation as one of scores of annual donors, but did not indicate that, according to the Arnold Foundation itself, the money is for programming to "educate the public about public employees' retirement benefits." PBS's only mention of the Arnold Foundation in connection with the "Pension Peril" series appears to be a single line at the bottom of one PBS website transcript, but that line was not mentioned on air, where most of PBS's viewers are exposed to PBS content. Beyond that one mention, searches for mentions of the Arnold Foundation and John Arnold on both PBS's website and WNET's website turn up no results.

Responding to Pando's inquiries, PBS officials could provide no evidence that PBS explicitly disclosed to its television viewers that the Arnold Foundation is financing the "Pension Peril" series.

The decision to not explicitly tell PBS viewers that the "Pension Peril" series is financed by the nation's leading anti-pension political activist may not be a mere oversight, considering one PBS official's private comments' about the project. According to a source who met with PBS about an unrelated initiative two months after the launch of the Arnold-financed "Pension Peril" series, an executive at the network said PBS was deliberately concealing details of the Arnold/PBS funding arrangement.

"We were sitting in a meeting talking about another issue and (PBS officials) were drawing examples of how they were working with other campaigns, and one of their executives said they've got a series called pension peril coming up talking about the threat of pensions at the state and local level," said the source. "I asked who was funding that project, and the executive said that at this point they are not disclosing who their funders are, and everybody sitting around the room kind of paused."

The source said another PBS official later privately confirmed that the "Pension Peril" series is being funded by the Arnold Foundation.

A stealth takeover of the public airwaves

A billionaire political activist like Arnold exerting financial - and thus ideological - control over PBS news programming is the culmination of a larger campaign by ideological and corporate interests to politicize public broadcasting. As Pando's Yasha Levine and others have documented, on National Public Radio that campaign has involved the radio network promoting politically skewed coverage of political front groups and corporate interests that are now permitted to finance NPR's journalism. That trend shows no sign of abating under NPR's new CEO, who came to the job after a career as a financial-industry lobbyist, Republican Party benefactor and board member of corporate-financed conservative think tanks.

On PBS, the campaign has been even more intense. During fights over funding for public broadcasting during the Bush era, one FCC official told the Washington Post that under withering pressure from conservative ideologues and corporate special interests, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting became "engaged in a systematic effort not just to sanitize the truth, but to impose a right-wing agenda on PBS."

In recent years, this campaign has seen public television stations ignore PBS's own rules about editorial control and pre-ordained conclusions. Indeed, stations across the country have started airing programming from wealthy ultraconservative foundations and corporate interests looking to promote their political messages through the PBS brand.

For instance, on the political front, there has been the "Free Markets Series" promoting right-wing icons like scion Steve Forbes, Cato scholar John Allison, and author Ayn Rand. Championing archconservative economic ideology, the show is financed by the John Templeton Foundation, whose namesake was a billionaire Wall Street investor and which is run by a financier of right-wing political causes. According to the program's website, in 2012 alone the Free Market Series "was telecast on PBS affiliates 20,722 times, over 249 stations, across 43 states and 129 markets, including nine of the top ten Nielsen markets."

Similarly, American University's annual survey of public television notes that in 2014, there will be "an extended slate of documentaries from Bob Chitester, the producer who introduced Milton Friedman to public TV viewers in 1980." According to the survey, Chitester "will bring libertarian perspectives on contemporary issues to public TV stations with "eight new programs in the works." Those include the programs "Unintended Consequences: Evils of the Welfare System" and "Money and Morality" - the latter described as designed to show "that the accumulation of wealth does not necessarily lead to corruption and cronyism." Chitester's work is produced by the "Free to Choose Network." That organization is funded in part by the Koch Family Foundations; is headed by a board comprised of corporate and financial executives; and lists a panoply of right-wing media voices as its official "fellows."

On the corporate front it has been a similar trend. Back in 2002, PBS promoted an economic series funded in part by John Arnold's old employer, Enron. In 2012, PBS's own ombudsman Michael Getler slammed the network for "flunking the perception test" when it aired a series sponsored by Dow Chemical that conveniently promoted Dow's business interests. A year later, Getler similarly criticized PBS for airing a documentary about drones that was funded by drone manufacturer Lockheed Martin.

Then came high-profile revelations about WNET's relationship with New York Senator Charles Schumer (D) and the station's then-board-member, David Koch of Koch Industries. As reported by the New Yorker, WNET executives went out of their way to appease the conservative Koch in advance of the airing of Academy Award winner Alex Gibney's documentary, "Park Avenue," which raised critical questions about wealth inequality and political corruption in America. Though both Koch and Schumer rejected requests to be interviewed by Gibney for the film and though both of them hadn't even seen the film, WNET made a heretofore unprecedented move by allowing the pair to append their own personal criticism to the end of the film.

"It was akin to someone calling the New York Times and being allowed to put a big ad at the end of an article claiming the whole article is bunk even though they hadn't read the article," Gibney said in an interview with Pando. "If the Kochs had made a movie and I was angry, would PBS have run my statement at the end the film? Probably not."

According to the New Yorker, WNET also invited Koch to appear on an on-air roundtable to discuss the film yet refused to invite Gibney to the same roundtable (Koch declined, but the network had a representative from the Koch-funded Manhattan Institute on). The magazine also reported that the blowback from Koch about Gibney's film ultimately ended up prompting WNET to help spike an already-in-the-pipeline public television documentary about the Koch Brothers themselves.

Now comes news that PBS is actively shaping program proposals in order to solicit a billionaire activist's financing for his ideological campaign to slash public employee pensions. Not only that, PBS is airing the content financed by that billionaire without explicit disclosure - and worse, camouflaged in PBS's ostensibly objective news programs.

A move toward native advertising

In its presentation and integration, the "Pension Peril" series represents a significant evolution beyond even these aforementioned stealth infiltrations. Unlike the other examples which do not necessarily cover breaking news in recurring fashion, the "Pension Peril" series is an ongoing real-time program on an active and evolving political campaign that its own benefactor is shaping. Additionally, unlike the other examples, it represents an insidious kind of disclosure-free native advertising.

Whereas PBS's standalone series like POV openly admit that the content viewers are about to see is a subjective point of view, the "Pension Peril" series has been broadcast as a part of PBS's allegedly objective news programming. That, along with the lack of explicit disclosure, has served to obscure the content's financial, political and ideological links to Arnold and his pension-cutting crusade.

Strategy-wise, this technique mimics the Bush administration's most controversial television propaganda. As the New York Times reported in 2005, the administration spent public resources to produce "prepackaged, ready-to-serve news reports" that "were subsequently broadcast on local stations across the country without any acknowledgement of the government's role in their production." In PBS's current iteration of the scheme, private special-interest money is now financing prepackaged news reports. Public resources are then used to promote those reports on publicly owned stations across the country - and with little disclosure of the original funding source.

That leaves millions of unsuspecting viewers wholly unaware that the PBS "reporting" they are watching is not objective news, but instead an ideological advertisement funded by a billionaire trying to manipulate public policy.

Update: The Wolf of Sesame Street responds to Pando - much bark, no bite, still stonewalling

(illustrations: Hallie Bateman) your social media marketing partner


A note of caution regarding our comment sections:

For months a stream of media reports have warned of coordinated propaganda efforts targeting political websites based in the U.S., particularly in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

Adapt and overcome.

Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

+118 # 2014-02-14 14:17
This is one truly sad state of affairs.
+128 # MEBrowning 2014-02-14 18:06
The U.S. is no longer a democratic republic. It is an oligarchic plutocracy.
+98 # skeeter 2014-02-14 18:10
The entire media (owned and operated by a handful of corporations) is quickly becoming irrelevant along with the plutocrats who they serve and the politicians who they own. The American people are beginning to wake up and the day of reckoning is coming.
+11 # RLF 2014-02-15 06:48
Keep dreaming...the newest incarntion of "Car Thief", the video game are coming out...amerikans can't be bothered...Oh! Wait! It is the new mistake!
+23 # wrknight 2014-02-15 11:59
And as soon as they own the cable companies, they will be able to control the internet as well.
+86 # bdeja 2014-02-14 18:41
I do not believe that this type of philosophy is new at NPR or PBS. Since PBS first drank from the fountain of millions of dollars, left to it by Ray Kroc's (McDonald's creator) wife, it has decided that money trumps the public interest. Both NPR and PBS have sought corporate money at the cost of the integrity.
+19 # Byronator 2014-02-14 22:25
PBS used to be called the Petroleum Broadcasting Station because of its kowtowing to oil industry supporters. However, before her death, Joan Kroc gave generously -- far more than the widows of most billionaire magnates -- to build an awesome recreational center in an immigrant-poor neighborhood, create a world class no-kill animal shelter, and a model hospice for the dying. Just a few of her bequests to make a positive difference in this corrupt world.
+8 # PGreen 2014-02-16 17:40
"When you look at a corporation, just like when you look at a slave owner, you want to distinguish between the insitution and the individual. So slavery, for example, or other forms of tyranny, are inherently monstrous, but the individuals participating in them may be the nicest guys you could imagine. Benevolent, friendly, nice to their children, even nice to their slaves, caring about other people. I mean, as individuals they may be anything. In their institutional role they're monsters because the institution is monstrous. The same is true here. So an individual CEO, let's say, may really care about the environment and, in fact, since they have such extraordinary resources, they can even devote some of their resources to that without violating their responsibility to be totally inhuman."
--Noam Chomsky (Interview in, "The Corporation")
+14 # RLF 2014-02-15 06:50
They are like my local public radio(WNYC)...i n love with their 6 figure salaries!
+15 # molesoul 2014-02-16 08:56
Quoting bdeja:
I do not believe that this type of philosophy is new at NPR or PBS. …. Both NPR and PBS have sought corporate money at the cost of the integrity.

Yes, corporate money at PBS and NPR has been chipping away at their integrity for many years now. But the type of influence exerted by the Arnold Foundation seems to raise the level of control over content to new heights.

Regardless, anyone who is outraged by this frightening state of affairs should write to their senators and representatives and demand that federal funding - public money - for public broadcasting be increased to levels that replace corporate dollars. In addition, we should demand that corporate money, including that from corporate-funde d foundations, be banned from public broadcasting.

Corporations and wealthy individuals are waging a war on democracy on many fronts, and Americans have to start fighting back - en masse.

As a first step, we can send this article to our congressmen and women and tell them to put a stop to the Pensions in Peril program.
+6 # Farafalla 2014-02-16 15:29
Indeed. 65 % of the politicians interviewed on All Things Considered (NPR) are Republicans or conservatives. And you can count on Robert Seagal to ask questions of his guests that reflect conservative perspectives. So when it isn't fluff it's stealth right wing reporting. I'm still pissed at Al Jazeera for going all cable in the US market and killing the online app. So now I'm stuck with bad "public" broadcasting.
+56 # wantrealdemocracy 2014-02-14 19:17
This is clear evidence that our nation is a cess pool of corruption. Thank God for what is left of the freedom of the Internet and Pacifica radio. All the rest is lies. And major media is where our voters get their information on how to vote. Maybe that explains the quality of our elected officials. Scum. We must change our government. It is bad now and getting worse. It is time for a Constitutional Convention to chuck out the old one and create a new one--and not written by just rich white men who own property (including slaves), but written by all of us to create a nation with liberty and justice for us ALL.
+1 # JohnBoanerges 2014-02-14 19:31
Lysander Spooner had the last word on constitutions. Read and heed No Treason, The Constitution of No Authority.
+4 # candida 2014-02-15 22:17
Amen!!! Long live Pacifica!!!
+43 # NAVYVET 2014-02-14 19:25
Aw, come on. NATION and others broke this news 25 to 30 years ago when NOVA began getting funding from DOD and its Merchants of Death, and also revealed that NPR news used feeds from ABC. I haven't sent any $$$ to the local PBS/NPR stations since. You shouldn't either unless you enjoy throwing your money to the super-rich. Some naive people actually think that PBS & NPR are 2 separate entities--not true any more, whatever it used to be. The 1% have infected everything. Nowadays when I think "PBS" I envision foolish sentimental uppah-clawss crud like the pandering soap operas they sell to viewers as "good" drama. Locally we do have an independent publicly-suppor ted channel, showing local documentaries plus 3 channels which carry foreign news. That news is untrustworthy, too, when they report on issues affecting their countries, but pretty honest about what's going on in the US--stuff you'd never see here except on progressive Email news sources & websites.
+15 # universlman 2014-02-15 11:08
Quoting NAVYVET:
not true any more

The GOP has always seen publicly funded broadcasting as a threat because it dilutes the voice of private money donations like this one from the Arnold Foundation. The GOP wants to hear the sound of wealthy voices on the public airways.

Over the years, the GOP has succeeded in reducing public funding of our "Public" broadcasting system to around 15%. Is this manipulation of public broadcasting by the Arnolds not a natural consequence of privatizing our public broadcasting system?
+14 # Jim Young 2014-02-14 19:44
They may have beat them up and intimidated them with all the threats of ending public funding, but I still watch them with the clear understanding that they have to include much of "the other side." That's,if anything, the opposite of FOX requirements (two conservatives for every token liberal), and they earn their keep with Bill Moyers, Democracy Now, and the many other sources (Al jezerra, World Net, MHz Network, FNX, BBC, RTN, etc). I'll give the Koch's their due on Nova and other programs that are enlightening, and minimally, if at all, political. America Revealed with Yul Kwan is one I think sponsored by the corporations that try to show only their best side of general areas of our infrastructure, but I'll take that type of a fairly well presented "big picture" though I'm intensely against some of the GMO type monopolistic monoculture aspects. I like to know both sides and as much more as I can about other considerations. Maybe I'm biased because I can get 12 over-air channels in my area that beat almost every other source, hands down.

I'd prefer better public funding for them and as free a choice in their programming as possible.
+30 # Saberoff 2014-02-14 20:43
NPR thinks (or implies it thinks) it is serving the public by airing your "two/both" sides, of everything. However, the news is supposed to be, and used to be, getting to the bottom of the issue: The truth! When the guy who says two plus two is four NPR just Has to give the guy who says two plus two is five equal time. Public served!
+5 # Jim Young 2014-02-14 20:55
I believe they are forced into it, since the ALEC supported take over of so many local state and national offices. New Gingrich was a powerful corrupt force in threatening to do away with any publicly supported media. What would you expect people under such duress to do?

I'm thankful for the better light they are able to shed as the most rusted news organization, with an audience of 170 million (a bit larger than the others like RSN, I support with even more money than PBS, though they have very much fewer subscribers). They can't do much more under the constant pressure, but I do appreciate the places they can point me to for the stories they can't carry.
+3 # Saberoff 2014-02-15 18:41
Hey Jim: But this sort of reminds me of the posture that Dems must raise as much money as the Reps cause, what else can they do?

Well, there's always grass roots; there's always hearts and souls; there's always inspiration...
+18 # RLF 2014-02-15 06:52
Problem with the way NPR and PBS cover both sides is that one side has merit and the other is patently false..full of lies and that goes unchallenged. Fox-Lite!
0 # keenon the truth 2014-02-17 14:11
That's just like the BBC.
+1 # Jim Young 2014-02-15 18:11
Seems they are the ones that still have some semblance of the "Fairness Doctrine."

I'm glad somebody does, whether they like it or not.
+38 # Bemused 2014-02-14 19:49
I think this is an excellent time to rethink my annual subscription to PBS. Perhaps now would be good time to switch my funding to RSN
+20 # wullen 2014-02-15 04:43
But you must tell them why you are no longer giving to them or it will be pointless.
+4 # molesoul 2014-02-16 09:08
I've been rethinking my subscriptions to PBS and NPR as well, but isn't this a little self-defeating? Why pull even more public funding and leave an even bigger gap for corporations to fill?

If you decide to discontinue your contribution, at least write to tell them why!
+24 # mblockhart 2014-02-14 19:51
OK, given this state of affairs, WHAT NEXT? What can be done to undo it? Legal action? Political action? Cleaning house at WNET? What needs to be done and how best to do it? Quit throwing up your hands. At least suggest actions we can take. Keep in mind that the press is the only industry specifically mentioned in the US Constitution.
+25 # m... 2014-02-14 20:50

As I read through and passed by the charming, happy, smiling cartoons along the way, a song came to me that I think pretty much sums up where Our Country is at these days…

If you like the happy tune of 'Yellow Submarine'.., then you will want to follow along with what may just become Our New, Bright, Shiny Corporate Sponsored Semi-National Anthem.

Ah One anda Two


We ALL Live in a Corporatacracy. ., a Corporatacracy. ., a Corporatacracy…

We ALL Live in a Corporatacracy. ., a Corporatacracy. ., a Corporatacracy…

As WE sink… Beneath the waves… In a Sea Of Cash, that paves the way…
We can see… The setting sun… For everyone of US, here today..


*We ALL Live in a Corporatacracy. ., a Corporatacracy. ., a Corporatacracy…

We ALL Live in a Corporatacracy. ., a Corporatacracy. ., a Corporatacracy…

We ALL Live in a Corporatacracy. ., a Corporatacracy. ., a Corporatacracy…

*(continue singing refrain until oblivion arrives)

If you are like me.., you imagined a big fat lady on stage leading the singalong while holding the mic out for all the Teaple People to sing along too… As the audience swayed and sang merrily along together through big, happy and gleeful toothy smiles because the Foxed up Country they were dreaming of finally came to be… :-)
+3 # molesoul 2014-02-16 09:26
I love this! A (satirical) theme song for the marches when America finally wakes up to reality… if it ever does. It's up to every one of us to take action - SOME action - to build a movement. Organize! You're preaching to the choir on this forum.

BTW, please leave fat ladies out of it. Obesity is a disease that afflicts mostly the poor, and is contributed to in no small part by the packaged food industry. We still think of the uber rich as fat cats, but the reality is that rich people have all the means they need to acquire healthy fit bodies.
+23 # Barbara385 2014-02-14 20:51
Bill Moyers is worth the whole PBS news budget.
However, how do we solve the problem of financing news operations when no one wants to except the corporations who want to control what is aired??? WBAI is going down right now, with the same real problem, not enough community support to fund the transmitter....
+13 # RLF 2014-02-15 06:56
Problem is...the community is broke...only the wealthy have enough to spare...and that has been planned...broke people can't take time to protest. Broke people can't send their kids through college without usorous( rry) loans trapping the children in to indentured servitude. We need to get rid of these rich people one way or another...if the force us...let it be the other.
+1 # mjc 2014-02-15 11:58
Hit the problem square on, RLF. We lack the funds and the connections to speak about inequality...of any sort, and fool ourselves into believing the someone like our present President can make up the difference. But.., getting rid of rich people probably can only come via a bloody revolution or a mass inoculation of rich folks with the concernforother s virus, perhaps at birth?!
+2 # Pancho 2014-02-17 20:00
How can a station in a market such as NYC not be able to finance news programs?
+30 # Barbara385 2014-02-14 20:54
Another comment. I find that The Guardian covers the news of the USA rather fairly, better than the NYt on a regular basis. The Guardian is supported to be independent because it is funded by a trust fund. That's what PBS should have.
-13 # None of them worth a Dime 2014-02-14 22:00
A couple of you are singing Bill Moyers praises? Look into where he makes money - government supplied materials he sells and surprise surprise surprise, he gets to keep all the proceeds. Just another bought and paid for stooge. Funny, kind of goes right along with the theme of the article.

It all depends on who has their ox being gored.

The .01% are screwing all of us. They basically fund (bribe is more accurate) our entire political system to their benefit.

Don't believe a thing any politician says. They are all subject to Human Nature, which boils down to greed. The large corporations, that politicians make every type of tax break to benefit, will be the downfall of society. If you think I am wrong look into the pasts of the likes of Bill Gates (his ties to politicians, his corrupt business practices and cooperation w/ the government to spy on everyone - built into computer systems), Steve Jobs (his ties to politicians like Al Gore and his sleazy corporate practices that essentially stole billions from investors - all most everyone with invested pension money), Warren Buffet (the master of insider information and using it for gain and a tax cheat of gargantuan proportions), the Koch brothers, George Soros, the Big Banks, ect. ect. ect.
+2 # Pancho 2014-02-17 20:04
If you can conflate Soros with the Kochs, and Moyers with mainstream media, your 2 cents worth is of lesser value than the "Dime" you're postulating.
0 # None of them worth a Dime 2014-02-14 22:01
Now many of these billionaire types are giving billions away... Look into where most of it goes.... It is nothing but cover so they can continue stealing the rest of the money they don't have. These narcissistic sociopaths think they are playing a game of monopoly, problem is it is yours and my money they are collecting - make that stealing. It has recently been estimated that 85 people now control 50% of the worlds wealth.

Now our government is proposing MyIRA (Obama in his State of the Union address). They are going to take your money and invest it for you into government bonds. With the rate of return on government bonds you will essentially have lost money when you go to collect, because the rate inflation is higher. You just can't make this stuff up.

Our founding fathers warned of this type of thing/people - tyrants. They came up with the Constitution, unfortunately it is little more then history now. Most law (other then spending bills)is now mandated by the courts, not made by or for most people. Most of the social mandates the courts deal with are nothing more then distraction to keep the public eye off of the ball.

Happy Valentines Day!
+10 # BeaDeeBunker 2014-02-14 22:11
I never really trusted Miss Piggy. She was always talking about 'moi.'
What do you expect, after all she is a PIG, just like the Pigs that use their slop $$$ to buy up the 'FREE AIRWAVES' to try to make us eat their slop and once we are sated, praise the chef!
If you want to get into fighting shape go on the new progressive diet, "The No Slop Diet!!" No fat, no artificial additives, nothing but pure unadulterated TRUTH.
+8 # Byronator 2014-02-14 22:32
Human beings are worse than pigs. Worse than any other species. And yet we claim to be "homo sapiens", i.e., wise guys. We think we're entitled to a second chance, but surprise. No second act for the naked ape.
+10 # Cdesignpdx 2014-02-14 22:31
Republicans have been reworking the media for years, and even after all objectivity has been drained, still call it the "liberal media."
GW slashed funding to public broadcasting and to compensate for their loss of funds, the broadcaster started licking conservative foundation and corporate boots for dough. To cash in, PBS began to their stupid point-counter point segment debates. The conservative arguments are no more than cliched talking points.
The right wingers call broadcasters and rant and rave when they perceive any position unfavorable to the party. No one on the right has lost a job for stupid reporting (think Lara Logan, 60 minutes Bengazi BS), but Phil Donahue, Dan Rather and Bill Maher get taken down. PBS has been 'bought.' Might instead watch Fox News 7-8pm for a few laughs.
+6 # Chrisp 2014-02-14 22:41
Check out the attendees of the secret elite society of the Bilderberg.

The Bilderberg Group, a secret elitist society, includes the MANY various types media companies, textbook companies, educational systems, and colleges, financial systems, the Rockafellas, Monsanto's, drug companies, insurance companies,; they ALL attend.
Our Government officials, the queen of the Netherlands, the elite of ancient times, which we would hardly know, unless we study world history.
The Bilderberg list of corporate and governmental attendance will tell you who is in this New World Order. The real elitist owners of the corporations will be veiled by the mere nature of what a corporation IS. They produce illusions as to who owns and controls the corporations, and will always be represented by the CEO's they pay big SUPER bucks to to take the final falls and responsibility.
The public does not have a clue, as to the extent they are running not only ALL the corporations, but ALL governments, too.
When the Rothschild bankers print money through Europe's Central Banks, and the Federal reserve in the US, these banker, investor, industrialists ARE owning ALL THE WORLD, They attain is goal by controlling 27% of ANY company's stock.
+26 # MindDoc 2014-02-14 22:50
WNET is my local station, I was raised on it, and my family were early members. But it's really lost its credibility since the days of McNeil/Lehrer (on the NewsHour). Today's huge list of corporate sponsors in *fact* leads to more "commercials" about 'clean energy' (fracking), etc. than many 'commercial' shows. At times the "hour" is 40-something minutes, the rest a barrage of 'commercials at the beginning and end (ever more) with increasingly less and blander content in between. IMHO.

Meanwhile, the TV studio is next door to what used to be Lincoln Center, but now carries the Koch name prominently. (Yes, it's still Lincoln Center, but this year members of the Film Society were stiffed in favor of corporate donors.) Funded mostly by the plutocrats, and money bundles from Koches and myriad lobbyists, PBS has been fluffing up the 'news' to comport (like Fox) with their mandate, as seen by their 'owners'/sponso rs. Sort of like Congress? The P in PBS once meant "public", not plutocrats'.

As for WNET/PBS, it's just a crying shame, that's all I can say. Yes it is hard sustaining a budget from viewers alone - as RSN well knows, on a smaller scale - but what about journalistic integrity and independence?

PBS still offers great programs: arts, music, discussion. It's not Fox, true, and one can find diversity. But for "news" to be credible, they must be willing to 'follow the money' without inhaling it. Sad.state of affairs, quite noticeable to long-time viewers.
+7 # Chrisp 2014-02-14 23:10
I once had a politician say it was our rats against their rats.
The point is, all politicians are rats.
They are all there to promote their own financial interests.
They are, like all businessmen, simply there for their money.
They are NOT representing OUR collective interests for the good of the MOST people.
They are representing themselves and the interests of the FEW.
It shows in EVERY VOTE being tallied in Congress and the Senate.
+3 # MendoChuck 2014-02-15 13:41
Of course I will add my two cents . . . . .

Actually it is just the plain old Washington DC BS, to be specific, that gets me down.
Why can't they just do their job and do what's good for the country on the whole.
Why all he hanky panky, behind closed doors, ya ya stuff that gets me down.

The cynic part that I have come to expect is just . . . . well just that, cynical.
The way things have gotten "set-up," in Washington DC, if you know what I mean.

It's a "Get Re-Elected" dominate society in Washington DC, When it should be a, "Let's get this done and get home to our families and life." Our Republic needs a "CIVILIAN Government," that is the way it was designed to operate.

The People being able to send representatives to Washington DC to keep things pulling in the same general direction.

We either have to put that part back in charge or that monster that functions on the East Coast called, Washington DC will continue to run amok so to speak.

End of Rant . . . . I feel better now.
+14 # Chrisp 2014-02-14 23:22
The Constitution was written MORE to protect the people FROM their Government, rather to create a government FOR the people.
We must demand the implementation of the meaning of Spirit of the Constitution. It is actually a good constitution, when implemented properly.
The courts are ruling on cases, as individuals bend the meaning of anything to suit themselves, and in favor of those, at the moment, in front of the court.
It is human nature for man to want to make his opinions to be the correct ones, and for man to have HIS WAY. That is what is happening with all those in power, as well. That unethical behavior has been consistent for maybe 40-50 years, now. It has not JUST happened.
+7 # Pancho 2014-02-14 23:49
Quite extraordinary.

"Say it isn't so, Joe."

"It's so, kid. It's so."

Shoeless Joe Jackson, on the Black Sox scandal.
+10 # wullen 2014-02-15 04:55
The first question is how do we know PBS really did approach Arnold first? But if that is true, then the question is why PBS wanted to do this particular subject series to begin with. I would bet it all goes back to the new CEO and his agenda which is probably a bit of PBS trying to bribe Republicans to stop trying to get rid of Public media. If that's the case, a boycott on PBS and NPR until he's thrown out may make a huge statement to PBS. And everyone needs to write Bill Moyers on this.
+1 # Pancho 2014-02-17 20:15
I can't imagine that a boycott of my $40-$50 a year is going to make much difference to PBS or NPR, compared to the millions they might be tossed by billionaires. They clearly worry about their small government subsidies, however, and tiptoe around issues that have serious lobbyist representation.
+10 # ericlipps 2014-02-15 08:04
Secret funding of supposedly objective informational programs is bad no matter where the money is really coming from. Viewers have a right to know if a program is being bankrolled by someone with a clear interest in pushing a particular view, and concealing such a connection is a tacit admission that it wouldn't pass the smell test if it were known.
+12 # RMDC 2014-02-15 08:25
None of this is surprising for PBS and NPR. After all, the Koch Bros. fund and control NOVA.

PBS and NPR were created out of the US Information Agency, the group that also runs Voice of America. They were created as propaganda vehicles from the start. VOA executives fill the ranks of management at NPR and PBS.

I've had some personal run ins a decade ago with Jim Lehrer. He's a gatekeeper for the government and corporations. He thinks he owns the news. You say what he tells you to say or you don't get your story on the news.

Thanks for this investigative piece. This is the kind of story that journalism is all about. Now we understand a lot more about PBS and when the "documentary" runs on TV we will be able to understand its bias.
0 # tgemberl 2014-02-17 13:43
"Fund and control Nova"? But Nova still includes programs on the perils of climate change. So the Koch brothers connection may not be as sinister as you think.
+1 # Pancho 2014-02-17 20:20
First of all, though both David and Charles Koch are snakes, it's only David that really contributes to public broadcasting, medical and evolutionary science, so far as I know, and I know a lot, having closely followed the two for over a dozen years.

I also doubt that he exercises direct control, with the exception of the Wisconsin coverage debacle. I think the control is rather anticipated by the producers who are reluctant to hammer the brothers for fear of future consequences.
+1 # tgemberl 2014-02-18 12:49
Yes, I suppose the producers might refrain from criticizing the Kochs, but they do include programs about climate change. I've never had the impression that Nova soft-pedaled that danger.
+7 # JSRaleigh 2014-02-15 09:30
Keep this in mind during the next phase of PBS's & NPR's interminable pledge drives.
+5 # Jingze 2014-02-15 10:33
I guess PBS is going the way of NPR - to the right. The word "public" has become meaningless. It should be changed to "republican."
+5 # reiverpacific 2014-02-15 11:13
PBS has been in serious decline since Michael Powell -yes, son of the sainted Colin-, usurped the head of the FCC in the Dimwits/Cheney era and attacked all forms of public-interest programming, including raising the fines for saying or allowing any of the "Seven forbidden words" -which of course, your child CAN'T POSSIBLY hear on the streets ever day, to the astronomical fine level that would shut down any low bandwidth or community radio station, especially on the left side of the FM dial, where most of the better quality public affairs and music productions can be heard.
Shit (one of these naughty forbidden words BTW), they'll be hookin' up with Clear Channel next, which gives you ol' Rush Limp-balls in all his hate and lie-filled, bile-spewing, hypocritical glory daily on many of it's ±1,200 centrally-contr olled crap-feasts.
I was doing radio training for a local left-opinion and varied, quality music station in Powell's reign of error so I got much of this first-hand, in detail.
They are now at the beck and call of the same huge corporate monopolies that form the Owner-Media, except their commercials are called "Grants from---!".
I haven't given them a penny since since Powell's time. I prefer to support specific stations and RSN with my meager contributions. Another sad statistic: in almost all cases of listener and local small business supported, corporate-free programming, on average, just 10% of the listenership commit to giving $ support or volunteering.
+1 # Pancho 2014-02-17 20:31
I appreciate the thoughts, and I actually don't contribute to "NPR," or "PBS," but to local affiliates.

I also contribute to independent 501(c)3 stations, such as KKFI in Kansas City and Pacifica on rare occasions when I happen to be in signal range.

I need to repeat my distinction between funders. If you watch the PBS News Hour, which did a terrific segment tonight on AGW, you will see it begin and end with a piece on BNSF. Now I doubt if any of us make a choice to ship via that rail industry giant, as opposed to another form of transport or provider. So Warren Buffet is funding the news out of the goodness of his ample heart, not to sway your opinion about some investment in which he's involved. Don't rush to judgment and assume that all grantors are equally corrupt or that they are corrupt at all.
+2 # mjc 2014-02-15 12:12
If nothing else, the PUBLIC in PBS or NPR should translate to those putting programs on the airways asa need to identify the sponsors, not the corporate sponsors with ads to show but those groups and individuals who are supporting the program, news or otherwise, on both sides of the spectrum...IF there are two sides, and THE side if there is only one contributor of the opinion/point of view. That is probably as much as one can expect of a supposedly PUBLIC company, and we damn well know that much of we hear or see is privately held information. We are a plutocracy, a long, long way from the agrarian democracy we came from.
+4 # ahollman 2014-02-15 14:20
3 issues: funding for and credibility of public broadcasting; right-wing / private sector attacks on the public sector, including pensions; and the actual state of public pension funds.

As a long-time public radio addict, I too am outraged by public broadcasting secretly violating its own rules about outside funding. I hope a FOIA will disclose the full agreement between WNET and the LJAF, and that an appropriate change of public radio management occurs. Great reporting by David Sirota!

The larger context of right-wing and private sector attacks on the public sector includes attempts to privatize public services, attacks on public unions, and criticism of public pension systems. This story shows the increasingly devious and indirect means right-wingers / the private sector use to accomplish their ends.

That said, a significant number of defined-benefit public pension funds are significantly underfunded. That deserves honest scrutiny. The article’s brief denial of the problem, comparing shortfalls to state gross product projections and to state corporate subsidies, is inappropriate and entirely ignores county and municipal pension funds. There are accounting and funding standards for private pension funds from which public pension funds are exempt. The differences between the two do not justify the exemption. If public pension funds had to adhere to these standards, some would be declared insolvent, forced to raise contributions, or forced to limit future benefits.
0 # Pancho 2014-02-17 20:33
Good points.
+5 # jlw08753 2014-02-15 15:33
Living in one of the corruption/infl uence capitals of the US (that's New Jersey), I thought no hidden influence story could sadden me. This story did. I can never again watch the PBS Newshour or listen to NPR with the same confident feeling that I am experiencing objecting journalism.
+3 # jlw08753 2014-02-15 15:33
sorry, OBJECTIVE journalism
0 # Pancho 2014-02-17 20:34
You can edit your posts. Here and elsewhere, that option might be time-limited.
+1 # stanhode 2014-02-15 20:18
Check out to put dozens of great radio shows at your fingertips. Consider sending them a donation because I hear they are struggling and looking at the possibility of having to end the service. is doing some excellent work. They seem to be growing, but they will probably always depend on individual donations.
-1 # cordleycoit 2014-02-15 21:37
I remember when PBS defunded their independent producer program in Southern Colorado leaving u high dry and without studio space.That was in the the late eighties when they stopped being public. Denver they fired the creative people in the early nineties. They have a nice taxpayer provided play house and they are without merit.
0 # bingers 2014-02-16 18:12
I was reading earlier today that the US Media is now the 47th freest in the world.
+1 # chizables 2014-02-17 09:43
Okay, I get it about PBS. Depressing and I hate it. But I really truly do not get is why billionaires and the extremely wealthy like the Koch Brothers and this guy ... why are they so hell bent on taking pensions away from state employees? I mean why are these zillionaires always picking on the poor and middle class? I don't get it! Can't they just lead their luxurious lives and leave other people alone? You talk about class warfare! They are starting it! They are the aggressors.
0 # tgemberl 2014-02-17 13:40
One thing to PBS's credit: I notice that the Koch brothers are major financiers of Nova, its science program, but the shows frequently talk about the perils of climate change.

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