Skip to main content

PBS Standards

Should You Take the Money?
Email share
Public school entrance

What happens when a program about school reform takes money from a foundation with a similar focus?


Here's the situation:

A news program aired a special education series examining efforts to reform struggling urban public schools. The education series was funded solely by ABC Charitable Foundation, one of the nation’s largest philanthropic institutions. The program was criticized for accepting this funding because education reform is one of ABC’s areas of focus. In fact, as critics noted, ABC was actively trying to shape the very educational reforms that the special series was covering – i.e., the emergence of charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately operated. 

While ABC was identified as one of several funders of the news program that broadcast the education series, ABC was not specifically identified as the sole funder of the series. ABC also was not identified in any promotional materials accompanying the series’ launch.


What do you think? Please answer the questions below.

More to consider:

  • Go More In-Depth: To read about a similar issue, see the PBS ombudsman column “Tensions Over Pensions,” from Feb. 14, 2014.
  • Under the Microscope: Some viewers closely scrutinize the financial support provided to content distributed by PBS. For more examples, see the following PBS ombudsman columns:

    > "Flunking the Perception Test,” from Feb. 14, 2014 (Examining the financial support provided by the Dow Chemical Company to a series about the complicated systems that keep the nation’s food, transportation, energy, and manufacturing networks functioning.

    > "Trust But Verify,” from Sept. 13, 2010 (Examining the financial support provided by billionaire David H. Koch to NOVA's “Becoming Human” series.)

    > "Turmoil Over ‘Turmoil,’” from July 16, 2010 (Examining the financial support provided by individuals and foundations with close ties to former Secretary of State George P. Schultz to a documentary about Schultz)

    > "Las Vegas: Did PBS Load the Dice,” from Dec. 9, 2005 (Examining the financial support provided by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and the University of Nevada – Las Vegas to a film about the history of Las Vegas.)

Editorial Principles

More Resources