The Daily Tar Heel
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The Daily Tar Heel

Time for transparency: UNC-TV must be more open about funding connections with organizations it reports on

UNC-TV should provide better information regarding their funding and relationship with the entities on which they are reporting when producing news programs like the Alcoa report earlier this summer.

UNC-TV recently aired a report on the state government’s decision to allow their contract with the company Alcoa to expire. This report caused controversy because the station gave full editorial control to the reporter who investigated the news story.
Other news outlets provide disclaimers when reporting on topics that deal with their donors or affiliates.

At UNC-TV’s request, three faculty members of UNC’s School of Journalism were asked to review the report to determine if it met universally accepted standards of journalism. This review found that the report did not meet these standards.

The faculty members found that the state-funded station, UNC-TV, was pressured by state lawmakers to slant the story in the government’s favor. This pressure should have caused the station to take editorial control.

The review correctly concludes that UNC-TV should never have wavered in response to pressure from any institution.
The troubling thought raised by the recent debacle is that its public funding makes it vulnerable to similar lapses in journalistic ethics going forward.

UNC-TV viewers can access information regarding the source of the station’s funding.

The station’s budget is released annually on its web site and shows what percentage of its budget comes from the state and federal government — more than 50 percent of the current budget comes from the North Carolina government.

But this is not enough disclosure for readers to judge news reports from UNC-TV that involve entities who provide them with funds.

UNC-TV should provide specific disclaimers before running their programs. Viewers deserve to be better informed about these news programs in order to form an educated opinion about their objectivity.

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