NewsHour gets $3.5 million from Gates Foundation

December 1, 2008

Here’s an excerpt from the press release from the well known weeknight news program:

The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer announced today that public broadcaster WETA, its co-producer, has received a three-year, $3.5 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to establish a dedicated NewsHour production unit to report on important global health issues….

The Gates Foundation grant will enable The NewsHour to significantly expand its broadcast and online coverage of major global health issues affecting developing nations, such as malaria, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, measles and neglected diseases. The NewsHour will also report on how global health challenges are being addressed from both scientific and public policy perspectives.

Over the three-year life of the grant, NewsHour correspondents will travel around the world to produce approximately 40-50 documentary style reports on major global health issues. These reports will air on The NewsHour’s daily PBS broadcast and will be distributed via The NewsHour’s digital platforms, along with original web-based global health content. The NewsHour will also launch a targeted outreach effort to put its reporting in front of policymakers, scientists, medical professionals and others in the global health community.

I spoke to NewsHour’s communications chief, Rob Flynn:

Q: Who decides what the news is?

A: We have complete and final control.

Q: Are you obliged to report on health issues that the foundation is interested in?

A: In some regards I guess you might say that there are not a heck of a lot of things you could touch in global health these days that would not have some kind of Gates tentacle. (But, he added, there is no obligation.)

Q: What happens if Bill Gates calls and says the story you’re about to put on is a smear job and he wants you to not air it?

A: We would, I guess, have to say that we kindly disagree.

Here, meanwhile, is a quick rundown on how the money is spent at the foundation, which was formed by the wealthy Microsoft Corp co-founder:

Asset trust endowment: $35.1 billion
Total grant commitments since inception: $17.3 billion
Total 2007 grant payments: $2.007 billion

If you think about it, that could help a lot of newspapers too!

(Photo: Reuters)

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