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Reporting Bias? Media Partners Praise Vaccine, GMO Programs Led by Bill Gates

When Does Sponsored Positive, Uncritical Coverage of Controversial Global Medical, Food Programs Become a Conflict of Interest?

Aaron Dykes
January 31, 2012

Reports commonly say Bill Gates– through his philanthropic foundation work– is ‘saving lives’ and ‘feeding the world’s poor.’

Reporting Bias? Media Partners Praise Vaccine, GMO Programs Led by Bill Gates media gates haloBut there’s no mistaking the genocidal overtones. Hundreds of millions if not billions are living on the edge of starvation at the start of the 21st Century, while a new era of GMO-proliferation and Big Agra domination pose other grave threats– both economic and vital. Thus, it is extremely important that we collectively decide on the best solutions for the future; it could prove far too costly in hindsight to pander to the wrong development.

So why has “the media” been so positively-glowing about Gates’ singular heavy-hand pushing GMO crops on the developing world (see AGRA partnership with Rockefeller Foundation and Monsanto) while vowing to lower population numbers through his global vaccination campaign (see GAVI alliance with Rockefeller Foundation), all while helping consolidate ownership in the food market now driving up prices (see global food security under Gates Foundation, Cargill and others)?

The simple answer is that many media voices are foundation funded– with grants and partnerships paid directly from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The very journalist outlets who should otherwise be holding Gates’ policies accountable with tough questions and volumes of scrutiny are instead financially-tied to his work.

For example, an ABC News article discussing the expansion of GMO drought resistant crops– aimed directly at Africa and the developing world– is published under a glowing title: Bill Gates on Using His Money to Save Lives, Fixing U.S. Schools, Reflecting on Steve Jobs. Mixed with disclosures that Gates holds 500,000 shares of stock in the world’s most controversial company, Monsanto, is a note at the bottom admitting that ABC News’ coverage has been sponsored in part by Gates, under the BE THE CHANGE: SAVE A LIFE program focused on health care in the poorest areas of the world:

Reporting Bias? Media Partners Praise Vaccine, GMO Programs Led by Bill Gates abcnews disclose billgates

Paid PR or Support for Unbiased News Reporting: ABC Says Bill Gates ‘Saving Lives’ in Story Sponsored by Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Without a doubt, disclosing their links is better than not doing so. But is it enough?

ABC News is far from the only media partner funded in part by Bill Gates.

The London Telegraph, too, has at least two blogs– on Global Development and Poverty Matters– subsidized by the Gates Foundation. Many stories, such as those on the rising prices of food note the sponsorship of Gates, but the stories themselves fail to deal with the other interests owned by Gates– such as shares in Cargill and Monsanto– that may directly affect or influence the very food crisis at hand. Instead, the sponsorship logo paints a mainly positive impression of the foundation in the minds of readers.

Reporting Bias? Media Partners Praise Vaccine, GMO Programs Led by Bill Gates telegraph food gatesfound

Two blogs at the London Telegraph are overtly subsidized by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundations, but the media outlet denies this potential conflict of interest affects their journalist integrity.

To be fair, the same sponsored blog does post articles critical of Bill Gates, like this one: Why is the Gates foundation investing in GM giant Monsanto?. But why they pay to support these reports? Entities as large as the Gates Foundation no that they can never avoid all criticism; a better PR strategy, therefore, is to funnel one’s own critique through “friendly” outlets.

Both the London Telegraph and ABC News claim that their relationship does not bias the reporting or add editorial pressure. However, if there was no benefit from such ties, lobbyists would have stopped taking politicians out for dinner & entertainment a long time ago.

Criticism is indeed dished out at Gates, but has the media steered clear of the controversy over vaccine dangers or studies that show GMO crops have correlation with cancer, organ failure and multi-generational sterility in lab rat studies?

In a CNN interview [no known sponsorship from the Gates Foundation] with Bill Gates, he was given softball questions heralding his savior status in Africa. Meanwhile, Gates was given freehand to smear Dr. Andrew Wakefield, who raised questions about the possible link between vaccines and autism.

Wakefield has already initiated a lawsuit against journalist Brian Deer and the British Medical Journal for publishing lies, distortions and mischaracterizing of his work. Yet Brian Deer has been criticized for not disclosing his own links. He appeared at a French conference attended by three MMR vaccine manufacturers (targeted by Wakefield’s research) as well as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Similarly, the producer of a BBC (Gates Foundation grant recipient) documentary largely attacking Dr. Wakefield also failed to disclose her links. According to the Age of Autism blog, producer for the BBC program, Alexandra Feachem, is the daughter of Sir Richard Feacham, a bonified beneficiary of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and advocate for private-public partnerships in health.

While on CNN, Gates called him a ‘fraud’ and overtly suggested that the doctor was biased from a financial interest– all while potentially costing the lives of vulnerable children:

Bill Gates: Vaccine Safety Skeptics Kill Children!

All while the Gates Foundation gives annual grants to dozens of media organizations– from training to reporting and more. The Seattle Times disclosed in Feb. 2011 at least 45 media entities receiving money from the Gates Foundation. Some of the money is significant, other grants are paltry– but history shows that such financial support tends to sway influence (even without “buying” it).

Among these organizations are big name news media, including the BBC, NPR and, as well as numerous university and global outlets, and of course, many press clubs and training grounds for tomorrow’s journalists. Further recipients include many centers that write or train for the writing of medical research and journal publication:

AllAfrica Foundation
BBC World Service Trust
Brookings Institute
Columbia University
Crosscut Public Media
Editorial Projects in Education
Education Writers Association
Foundation for Public Broadcasting in Georgia
Institute for Advanced Journalism Studies
InterMedia Study
International Center for Journalism
International Center for Journalists
International Women’s Media Foundation
InterNews Network
Johns Hopkins University
Learning Matters, Inc.
Lincoln Square Productions, LLC
Link Media, Inc
Mater Medical Research Institute
National Conference of Editorial Writers Foundation
National Journal Group
National Press Foundation
National Public Radio (NPR)
New Venture Fund
Overseas Development Institute
President and Fellows of Harvard College
ProPublica, Inc.
Project Hope (to publish papers on global health issues)
Public Library of Science
Public Radio International
Regents of the University of California Berkley
Rhodes University
Seattle University
Stanford University
Steps International Foundation
Teachers College, Columbia University
Aspen Institute, Inc.
Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation
United Nations Foundation
Unity Journalists of Color, Inc.
WGBH Educational Foundation
Washington News Council
World Health Organization

The White House has been under fire– both during the George W. Bush Administration as well as the Barack Obama Administration (also, campaign plants on CNN)– for paid news scandals masquerading as fair, but friendly reporting. They are, of course, taxpayer funded government institutes, making their conflicts of interest more poignant and controversial.

Yet, in the quasi-private sector where numerous large foundations, with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation chief among them, also grant money to media outlets while simultaneously promoting campaigns (like GAVI and AGRA) where they hope for positive coverage, questions of ethics also arise. Given the scope of operations at Gates, Rockefeller and other mega-foundations, there is no doubt that decisions they make– in what and how to promote– can have consequences for the world’s population that even outweigh what governments do.

Reporting Bias? Media Partners Praise Vaccine, GMO Programs Led by Bill Gates GatesFoundation gears

With that in mind, it is time that Bill Gates’ image in “the media” as a savior of the poor be blemished with the full light of day and balanced with full criticism and deep discussion about the impact his foundation’s choices can make for our very livelihoods and future.

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