The panelists discuss whether public radio underwriters should be allowed to have their spots linked to particular stories and other news projects.
The issue is raised in the magazine Current, which covers public broadcasting. It cites several reasons why this is happening: “The weak economy has left underwriters with tighter budgets, prompting them to seek more bang for their buck as they allocate their dollars. At the same time, public radio’s gains in audience and stature have given underwriters access to more listeners and website visitors, and they want to maximize their marketing exposure.”
In at least one case, a business requested a direct role in the editorial process. The request was denied, but Shop Talk panelist Lisa Kernek points out journalists must be careful about the perception that an outside organization might influence the content of a story.
Panelist Mike Murray said there have been cases in commercial broadcasting in which a business threatened to pull advertising if a particular story aired. He said that could make commercial broadcasters more cautious about what they air to avoid offending an advertiser. The panelists agree that could cause journalists to censor themselves.
The panelists concur with a point made in the article, which said businesses once considered underwriting on public broadcasting to be a philanthropic gesture, but now they consider it part of an overall marketing strategy and they expect more from it.