Does Gates Foundation Funding Affect Media Objectivity?

Some experts have expressed concern over the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s funding of some media organizations, arguing that this could affect the objectivity and direction of media coverage, as well as blur the lines between advocacy and journalism.

“Even if we were to satisfy ourselves that the Gates Foundation were utterly benign, it would still be worrisome that they wield such enormous propaganda power,” the Seattle Times quotes Mark Crispin Miller, a media, culture and communications professor at New York University.

Critics noted that some approaches of the Gates Foundation are controversial, such as its promotion of genetically modified crops, and that its funding of media organizations to cover these approaches could muffle debate on related issues.

In addition, Miller pointed out that there is something “deeply anti-democratic” about the concentration of influence at the Gates Foundation, noting that it has only three trustees laying out the overall strategy.

The Gates Foundation has spent some $1 billion for its “advocacy and policy” programs, which includes partnerships with several major media organizations around the world, over the last 10 years, the Seattle Times says.

Foundation officials and media recipients of the funding maintain that the Gates Foundation does not dictate coverage of global disease and the foundation’s own programs.

The foundation’s goal is to make sure the “stories get told,” Joe Correll, who’s in charge of the foundation’s policy, advocacy and communications efforts in Europe, said. PBS correspondent Ray Suarez added that the foundation trusts the editorial process of its recipients.

“It’s not like we’re getting calls from Washington state saying: It’s time to do HIV. It’s time to do malaria,” he was quoted by the Seattle Times as saying.

But there are some journalists who are uneasy about their organizations receiving funding from the foundation. Most compromise by staying away from stories related to the foundation to avoid conflict of interest.

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About the author

  • Ivy Mungcal

    As former senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributed to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.