There were more questions than answers in today's (Jan. 11) NETA session on the Editorial Integrity for Public Media project. Ted Krichels, director of Penn State Public Broadcasting, and Tom Thomas, co-c.e.o. of the Station Resource Group, updated attendees in Nashville on the public TV and radio work to develop a framework of principles, policies and practices for a pubcasting system facing increasingly complex ethical challenges.
What are appropriate boundaries between funders and subject matter? Is it acceptable for a funder to be an editorial partner? Do funding standards differ between news and non-news programming? How can a station ensure that a collaborative, multiplatform project is handled ethically when it is just one partner in the work?
One way to preserve the trust that viewers and listeners place in public media is to be transparent when working through such quandaries. Stations might consider publishing the amount and contractual obligations of a grant, or explaining specific criteria for the funding. "In today's media environment, transparency could become public media's calling card," Krichels noted.
A 20-member steering committee and smaller working groups have been facing down such issues and are now preparing final reports for feedback. It's the first project to establish comprehensive guidelines since the 1984 Wingspread Conference (PDF).
The work is headed up by the pubTV Affinity Group Coalition and the pubradio Station Resource Group. NETA is providing organizational support and funding is coming from CPB.