An astute listener notices that NPR has been devoting considerable air time to Dreamworks’ new film The Soloist, coinciding with advertising time Dreamworks purchased with NPR to promote the film.
Alicia G. Shepard, NPR’s ombudsman, acknowledges that while it looks like “pay for play,” “a firewall exists between the editorial and marketing sides of NPR to prevent NPR sponsors from influencing programming.”
Shepard explains that producers receive a list of funding credits a week in advance of each show’s airing, so that they may remove those spots from running near shows that would give the appearance of a conflict:
PBS Ombudsman Michael Getler responds to viewer complaints about its member stations’ pledge-drive programming. A particular target of scorn is The UltraMind Solution, featuring Dr. Mark Hyman. Getler writes:
I do think that PBS and the member stations are failing to fulfill an obligation to viewers to make absolutely clear — in unmistakable ways either visually on screen or spoken — that these are not PBS programs, that PBS does not vet them or distribute them. This would seem pretty easy to do, and pretty obvious when it would seem necessary. …
… Whatever the values or flaws of these programs, when they appear on local PBS-member stations, along with the other accompanying material I just cited, viewers have a right to be told that this does not mean it has some PBS seal of approval that conveys the kind of confidence in content that PBS seeks to insure and promote.
So if this is the case, why are programs such as Hyman’s being used to drum-up pledge support instead of programming that PBS has vetted and stands behind, per its own Standard and Policies?