Working Groups: Funding and Firewalls
The Need for Greater Transparency
As has been noted, the increasing intricacy of funding relationships necessitates a renewed commitment to overall station transparency. In NPR’s 2004 journalism ethics guide, authors Alan Stivitsky and Jeffrey Dvorkin note that “Our journalism should be transparent and accountable - that is, we share with our listeners our policies and practices, and discuss how we resolve thorny ethical problems.”
We believe that it is crucial for public media to be fully transparent not only about our journalism practices but our funding policies as well.
We also believe that commitment represents a unique opportunity for public media. In today’s media environment, transparency can become public media’s calling card. In other words, the more we reveal about the nature of our policies and practices the more we have the opportunity to distinguish what is unique about our collective enterprise. We would also encourage public media to be as fully transparent as possible about the specific nature of our financial relationships and our contractual obligations with non-profit foundation funding sources.
We believe each station should commit itself to a specific policy regarding transparency. That policy could include some of the following elements:
- If the station receives a grant from a foundation to produce programming, it should consider publishing the amount of the grant and what its contractual obligations entail.
- If the station engages in a funder/editorial partner relationship described earlier in this report, it should disclose the specific nature of that relationship both financially and editorially.
- All stations should publish their standards for accepting funding.
- All stations should publish the editorial guidelines that all of its programs adhere to.
- All stations should consider disclosing a glossary of terms which explains what certain phrases mean such as “brought to you in part by” or “with additional assistance from.”
Our view is that the more stations disclose the better and that the very act of disclosure reinforces our unique role within the American media environment. We believe, in short, that transparency provides a powerful antidote to concerns over undue influence and that embracing greater transparency represents a huge opportunity for public media.