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Elon Musk’s Twitter page displayed on the screen of a smartphone with Twitter logos in the background in Los Angeles. InternationalIndiaAfricaCanada’s CBC recently followed in the footsteps of NPR, PBS, and other news outlets, “pausing” its activities on Twitter after being slapped with a government-funded tag, noting in an affronted tweet that, “journalism is impartial and independent. To suggest otherwise is untrue.” Tech billionaire Elon Musk publicly declared he was on a mission to make Twitter “an arena for free speech” when he acquired the social media site in a blockbuster $44-billion deal in October 2022.The world’s richest man has since culled staff, and has been adding and tweaking features to Twitter Inc., prompting everything from praise, to criticism, and profuse vitriol. The latest case in point has been the branding of multiple Western media outlets, such as the BBC, NPR, CBC, and others, with a special label indicating their ties to authorities. Previously, the label had typically been applied to Twitter accounts of state media outlets in non-Western countries that were accused of purportedly lacking editorial independence. Back in 2020, Twitter’s pre-Musk administration began tagging media pages that it deemed were under ‘government control’. Several media organizations from countries such as China, Russia and Iran received state-affiliated media tags, while their accounts were de-amplified. Though the latter action was halted, Twitter had retained the labels.Western media outlets might have been previously eager to shadowban and slander Russian or Chinese outlets, but once the tables were turned on them, the reaction of the ‘newly-tagged’ was more than a little piqued.How did the ‘Government Funded’ tag row unfold and what have the reactions been across the board? Sputnik explores.
National Public Radio
On April 4 Twitter added a “state-affiliated media” tag on the account of National Public Radio (NPR), a network of about 900 radio stations across the US, set up in 1970. Twitter identifies government-funded media as “outlets where the state exercises control over editorial content through financial resources, direct or indirect political pressures, and/or control over production and distribution.” NPR, closely affiliated with American authorities and notorious for trying to bury the Hunter Biden laptop saga, which shed light on the ‘shady’ details of the life of the POTUS’ family, went ballistic. The US state-sponsored media network stated on April 12 that it would no longer post fresh content to its 52 official Twitter feeds.NPR CEO John Lansing called the label “unacceptable.” Twitter later updated the label to “government-funded media.” In a flurry of parting shots on Twitter, NPR enumerated other sites where it could be found, including via its app, newsletters, and other social media platforms. After NPR’s outburst, Twitter CEO Elon Musk tweeted a proposition to “defund” the news organization.Tucker Carlson, weighed in on the Twitter tag tumult with NPR’s case, underscoring that the broadcaster was “the radio station of permanent Washington.”“Of course, NPR is state media… Have you listened to it? It has all the hallmarks: repetitive dishonesty, authoritarian politics, unwavering devotion to the party in charge. Of course, that could describe virtually all media in this country,” Tucker Carlson said.The journalist added that, “By adding three simple words to NPR’s tweets, Elon Musk exposed that forever to the world. Such is the power of truth. It exposes and, of course, it infuriates those who are exposed.”WorldElon Musk Calls For Defunding NPR After It Quits Twitter13 April, 13:00 GMT
Public Broadcasting Service
The Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) took a cue from NPR in quitting Twitter after it was designated with that same “Government-funded Media” label. “PBS stopped tweeting from our account when we learned of the change and we have no plans to resume at this time. We are continuing to monitor the ever-changing situation closely,” a spokesperson for PBS told media.Musk reacted to the news by quipping: “Publicly funded PBS joins publicly funded NPR in leaving Twitter in a huff after being labeled ‘Publicly Funded’.© Photo : TwitterScreenshot of Elon Musk’s twitter account.Screenshot of Elon Musk’s twitter account.
British Broadcasting Corporation
The BBC was initially marked as “Government-funded Media” before Musk conceded to a tweak and changed it to “Publicly-funded media.” The corporation vehemently disputed the original label, underscoring that it was funded through the British public’s flat license fee. This is something that households using television and streaming services on any device pay. However, it is the British government that sets the level of the fees, meaning that politicians can crack down on “independent” journalists at any given moment.© PhotoBBC is Government FundedBBC is Government FundedSet up by Royal Charter back in 1927 and run by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, the BBC’s key donor is the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, basically, the UK’s foreign ministry. The list of important sponsors also includes the United States Agency for International Development, the European Union, NORAD – North American Aerospace Defense Command and even the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.The BBC is no stranger to being caught promoting 10 Downing Street’s agenda, and enjoys hefty financial support from the government, such as raking in a £34 million boost for the BBC World Service.Musk later stated in an interview for the BBC that he agreed to change the designation in an effort to “be accurate.” The BBC has continued to tweet using all of its feeds with its updated label.WorldTwitter Dubs BBC as Government-Funded Media9 April, 14:43 GMT
Sveriges Radio, or Swedish Radio (SR) vowed to stop using Twitter with immediate effect and close down a number of accounts after being labeled on the platform as “publicly funded media,” along with fellow national broadcaster Sveriges Television (SVT).The publicly-funded Scandinavian radio station claimed that its move had nothing to do with the new tag, with social media manager Christian Gillinger suggesting that Twitter has “simply changed over the years” and was “less important” to the broadcaster. He also reports indicating that only 7% of Swedes are on Twitter daily.
"The audience has simply chosen other places to be. And therefore, Swedish Radio is now choosing to deactivate or delete the last remaining accounts," he said in a statement.
According to Sweden’s public radio, its main Twitter accounts will be frozen, and could be reactivated should the need arise.WorldSwedish Radio Leaves Twitter After Being Marked as ‘Publicly Funded Media’05:13 GMT
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC/Radio-Canada) announced on April 11 that it was suspending its activities on Twitter after the social media platform decided to label them as a government-funded outlet.
"Our journalism is impartial and independent. To suggest otherwise is untrue. That is why we are pausing our activities on Twitter," CBC said in a statement via Twitter.
CBC is a so-called crown corporation, mandated by Canada’s Broadcasting Act. It is managed by a board of directors and held responsible by the Canadian Parliament, and it receives state funding. In a statement, CBC spokesperson Leon Mar claimed the Canadian government does not influence CBC’s content or editorial judgement.“CBC/Radio-Canada is publicly funded through a parliamentary appropriation that is voted upon by all Members of Parliament. Its editorial independence is protected in law in the Broadcasting Act.”Following CBC’s complaints that they only receive “less than 70%” of their funding from government sources, CEO Elon Musk jokingly went along and awarded them with a custom label stating that the outlet is “69% Government-funded Media.”© Photo : TwitterScreenshot of Elon Musk’s Twitter account.Screenshot of Elon Musk’s Twitter account.Among those having received the new Twitter labels have been the Australian Broadcasting Company (ABC Australia), Australia’s Special Broadcasting Service (SBS), and New Zealand’s public broadcaster RNZ.
‘Exposing the Hypocrisy’
Elon Musk’s “truth telling” policy is “exposing the hypocrisy” of the West, said Chris Garaffa, weighing in on the outcry from massive and well-funded Western media platforms, like PBS, NPR, CBC over the Twitter designation.Establishment figures may be “shouting at the top of their lungs” about PBS and NPR being labeled as government funded media, yet they are quite happy to see Russian outlets, for example, labeled as state affiliated media on Twitter, said the technologist and cohost of CovertAction Magazine podcast.“The hypocrisy that we’re seeing is that it should only apply to the, quote, enemies of the United States, but not to the agencies. And, you know, in the United States, like NPR, which is technically independent, but the math has been done. It does get government funding. It really is exposing the hypocrisy of a lot of these commentators who are saying that Twitter shouldn’t be doing this or Elon Musk shouldn’t be doing that.”As far as NPR, or PBS are concerned, they’ve both said that they were not going to use Twitter anymore, but they already have a “pretty high profile,” Garaffa pointed out.“I think we can certainly learn from the lessons that that that are being that are being shown here. And I think we’re learning in real time what people actually think about so-called free speech and the role that corporations are playing, unfortunately, in censorship,” Chris Garaffa summarized.WorldEquality, Huh? Twitter Labels Sputnik, RТ, Chinese Media as State-Affiliated, Exempts BBC, NPR6 August 2020, 20:55 GMTDespite the hue and cry about the designations from these Western outlets themselves, rank-and-file Twitter users have been generally appreciative of this policy, many tweeted that the newsrooms in question couldn’t “deal with the truth.”© Photo : TwitterTwitter screenshot.Twitter screenshot.© Photo : TwitterTwitter screenshot.Twitter screenshot.© Photo : TwitterTwitter screenshot.Twitter screenshot.© Photo : TwitterTwitter screenshot.Twitter screenshot.