A key Public Broadcasting Systems affiliate will return a $3.5 million donation from a billionaire anti-pension activist that was being used to broadcast a show seemingly hewing to his pro-business beliefs.
The New York Times reported on Friday that WNET-TV will refund the contribution from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation.
As Pando Daily reported on Wednesday, the PBS affiliate apparently pitched the series, Pension Peril, to the foundation and listed the group online as the sole donor, without mentioning its activities during the show. The group, founded by former Enron trader John Arnold, has dedicated itself to lobbying for public employee pensions to be cut across the country.
The series will reportedly go on hiatus, while WNET reaffirmed its plans to continue reporting on the sustainability of pensions for public employees. In a joint statement released with PBS, the channel said it was returning the Arnolds’ donation “in order to eliminate any perception on the part of the public, our viewers, and donors that the foundation’s interests influenced the editorial integrity of the reporting for this program.”
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the foundation told the Times that Arnold’s organization “never sought, nor did we receive, any editorial control or access to the programming.” But Pando’s report mentioned that the terms of the original donation allowed the group to withdraw its funding “in the event of extraordinary circumstances,” and that early episodes already showed signs of obscuring facts that could run counter to anti-pension arguments.
[Image: ‘Sherlock’ star Benedict Cumberbatch and ‘Sesame Street’ characters, via PBS official Facebook page]