Following controversial “government-funded media” labels recently being added to the Twitter accounts of NPR, PBS and the BBC, a handful of international news outlets including the Australian Broadcasting Company (ABC) reported the same treatment on Monday.
Over the past two weeks, both PBS and NPR left the microblogging social platform, expressing outrage at the labels foisted on them, and citing editorial independence and histories of unbiased reporting.
NPR was first labeled by Twitter as “state-affiliated” -- a title reserved for propagandist outlets like Russia’s RT. However, NPR receives less than 1% of its $300 million annual budget from the federally funded Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
Now, under CEO Elon Musk's oversight, Twitter is rolling out more “government-funded media” to global news outlets that -- like the outlets that have already been targeted -- claim to be independent of government control.
The new wave of labels affects the ABC, Australia's Special Broadcasting Service (SBS), New Zealand's public broadcaster RNZ and Catalonia's TV3.cat.
Similar to the responses of NPR and PBS, the ABC tweeted that for over 90 years it has been an independent media organization “free from political and commercial interests” -- adding that “ FYI: The ABC is a publicly funded broadcaster, governed by the ABC Charter which is enshrined in legislation.”
Twitter defines “government-funded media” as outlets “where the government provides some or all of the outlet's funding and may have varying degrees of government involvement over editorial content.”
According to this definition, these labels are not technically incorrect, although news outlets like SBS are concerned that they could mislead readers into believing the outlet is editorially controlled by the respective government.
“While we appreciate Twitter's motivations with regard to transparency on its platform, we believe a ‘publicly funded media’ label better reflects the hybrid public-commercial nature of our funding model and the fact that SBS retains full independence from Government in our news editorial and content decision making,” a spokesperson said in a statement.
Alongside the “government-funded media” label is “publicly funded media” which refers to organizations that “receive funding from license fees, individual contributions, public financing, and commercial financing.”
After an interview with BBC's James Clayton, Musk changed its label for the BBC to “publicly-funded media.”