Update: On April 10, Twitter changed NPR's designation from "US state-affiliated media" to "Government-funded Media." On April 12, NPR announced it would stop posting on the platform; NPR CEO John Lansing cited "a shadow of negativity," saying, "I have lost my faith in the decision-making at Twitter."
In April 2023, Twitter added a “US state-affiliated media” tag to NPR’s (Lean Left bias) account. The change prompted some accusations of bias against Twitter and its owner, Elon Musk. Newsweek (Center), for instance, said other outlets were more deserving of the tag by running the headline, “Elon Musk Labels NPR as State Media, Ignores Actual State Media.”
In response to the Musk incident, NPR has posted an article stating it receives “less than 1%” of its funding “from direct federal sources.” NPR’s Public Radio Finances page reads, “Federal funding is essential to public radio's service to the American public… including NPR,” and says, “station programming fees comprise a significant portion of NPR's largest source of revenue.” They go on to add, “The loss of federal funding would undermine the stations' ability to pay NPR for programming, thereby weakening the institution.” Influence Watch (Not Rated) points out that NPR “receives almost 10% of its budget from federal, state, and local governments indirectly.”
NPR was formed by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), which Influence Watch calls an “independent, private nonprofit organization” that was founded by an act of Congress in 1967 and received “most of its funding from the federal government.” Influence Watch also reports that NPR received almost all of its funding from CPB into the 1980s, when its share of funding from CPB dwindled into the single digits.
Twitter’s decision sparked a debate at AllSides over what it means to be “state-affiliated” and whether Twitter was biased in applying the label to NPR's page.
Joseph Ratliff, AllSides Daily News Editor
I think it needs to be said that Elon Musk can be (and is) wrong about NPR’s relationship with the government, and you can still dislike NPR if you want. Those things are allowed to coexist. It seems to me that at least some of our disagreement here stems from this.
As for the main issue, I don’t think it’s productive to argue over whether 4% government funding makes something “state-affiliated,” or what type of government funding (CPB grants vs. direct funding) counts, particularly without government editorial influence. After all, a substantial portion of Tesla’s revenue has come from government subsidies — is Tesla “state-affiliated”?
Furthermore, I am less persuaded than others that NPR exhibits partisanship substantial enough to make government contribution a problem. It could certainly do better at covering conservative voices, but that is a separate issue from its state affiliation, which is marginal at best and certainly not on par with truly state-affiliated organizations. As Newsweek noted, including this label for NPR and not outlets like Voice of America (Center bias) shows a clear intent to stigmatize or delegitimize NPR.
Julie Mastrine, Director of Marketing and Media Bias Ratings
A total of 4% of NPR’s funding came from federal sources in 2017. While that number seems small, and is being downplayed by some press, the issue is not about how much funding NPR receives, but rather, that it receives any federal funding at all while being clearly biased to the left. Much of NPR’s coverage is biased against the views of half of the country, yet it receives money from them.
For a media entity to receive any federal funding — which originates from taxpayers — and then to display such an overt bias is objectionable. I believe it is likely on these grounds that Musk “targeted” NPR with a label. I don’t have any problem with labeling state-affiliated media on Twitter — though yes, Musk should be consistent and label any and all outlets that receive federal funds, not just those on the left. At AllSides, we make bias transparent by labeling outlets on our 5-point bias spectrum. I'm sure if a conservative news organization were receiving any amount of public funding, we'd be hearing very loud objections about it and calls to make that fact very transparent.
Andy Gorel, News Curator
Based on the facts and circumstances researched and stated above in the introduction, it appears that NPR is indeed “state-affiliated.” However, it seems Musk is being unnecessarily inflammatory by labeling it as such, considering actual state-owned media outlets like Voice of America or France 24 (Not Rated) remain without a label on Twitter.
Notwithstanding the above, just because something is state-affiliated or state-owned doesn’t mean readers should discredit it from the jump. For instance, as you will see in this recent AllSides blog post, Russian state media agency TASS was the earliest and most accurate reporter from the battle for Snake Island. The report was largely ignored by media sources in the West, despite turning out to be true. State media, like all other media, are biased, and it's important to keep that bias in mind when reading, so you can truly hear out all sides.
Henry A. Brechter, Editor-in-chief
NPR probably deserves some sort of disclaimer about its federal funding. But as others have said, if that’s the case, then outlets like Voice of America should also have one. The inconsistency here is counterproductive to the apparent goal of labeling: making it clear when a news source is affiliated with the government in any way.
Info on where a news source gets funding — the government, liberal or conservative groups, etc — can be an indicator of potential biases. But it might not tell the whole story. As a reader, pay more attention to a source’s content and the types of media bias it displays.
Johnathon Held, Content Intern
I think defining terms is extremely important. For example, what exactly constitutes “state-affiliated”? If being state-affiliated means accepting any funding whatsoever from government sources, then I am in agreement that NPR is “state-affiliated.” However, being state-affiliated in this sense does not mean the content is government controlled. I do agree with Julie in the sense that if taxpayer dollars are going towards the funding of a public news or broadcast station, then that station should see the dire importance of representing these people fairly by delivering news that strives at covering all stances in a situation. I also agree, Julie, that this is why Musk targeted NPR in the first place.
Andrew Weinzierl, Bias Research Manager & Data Journalist
NPR is now labeled as US state-affiliated on Twitter:
Elon Musk said that NPR editorial content is controlled by the government. That's not correct, is it?
I don't think so, although you could make a tangential funding-control argument.
Oh, it's actually almost nothing, never mind. Per Wikipedia:
"While NPR does not receive any direct federal funding, it does receive a small number of competitive grants from CPB and federal agencies like the Department of Education and the Department of Commerce. This funding amounted to less than 0.1% of revenues, according to its 2020 public filings."
Interesting, thanks for the context!
It was 4% in 2017.
"Only 4 percent of funding in fiscal year 2017 came from federal, state and local governments, according to NPR, and on average, less than 1 percent of its annual operating budget comes from federal agencies and departments or grants from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB)."
It's a small amount, but I'm sure if a conservative org were receiving any amount of public funding we'd be hearing about it.
It seems to me that the "state-affiliated" idea probably comes from 1) conservatives wanting a reason to say NPR is bad, and 2) conservatives believing government is bad, so tying it to government completes the argument.
I think it comes from them being disillusioned with NPR's bias against them and the fact their money goes to them.
Where did Musk say that about editorial control?
I believe he tweeted it! I saw something earlier about it. The actual quote I think is found in media reports on the story.
I think this headline has slant, because it implies that NPR is not "actual state media." Seems like opinion stated as fact, not labeled analysis/opinion.
The headline is flatly accurate. Here’s how the article explains it:
"However, in doing so, Twitter appeared to ignore outlets that are actually funded by the United States government — like military newspaper Stars & Stripes and public broadcast station Voice of America (VOA) — calling into question whether Twitter's decision was motivated by the bias of the company's conservative owner, Elon Musk."
Gotta love the media calling Musk a conservative. It’s a spectrum of course, but that’s bias at best, and inaccurate reporting at worst.
I think "conservative" is being used in this case not to refer to a specific ideology, but to refer to a broad ideological coalition to which Musk has somewhat aligned himself recently. It's sloppy, but I get it.
Yeah, I understand what you’re saying. I feel it could have just said “bias of the company’s owner” though.
So from what I can tell, NPR isn’t “state media,” unless we want to say that the definition of "state media" is subjective.
I actually was looking into this a little bit lately out of curiosity. My understanding was NPR used to be state media? But now isn’t? Can anyone ELI5?
Not sure. Wikipedia says:
"National Public Radio replaced the National Educational Radio Network on February 26, 1970, following Congressional passage of the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967. This act was signed into law by 36th President Lyndon B. Johnson, and established the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which also created the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) for television in addition to NPR."
Established by an act of Congress, receives a little state funding. Seems to be the gist.
"Newsweek reached out to Musk on Twitter for comment. A request for comment emailed to Twitter's office on the rationale behind the policy change was answered with a poop emoji—an automatic reply used by the company after Musk laid off his company's communications staff."
How is this not misinformation from Newsweek...at the beginning of the article they insinuate NPR gets no funding and then in the next breath say it does.
“However, in doing so, Twitter appeared to ignore outlets that are actually funded by the United States government.”
“While NPR was established by an act of Congress and does receive some federal funding in the form of grants, its funding is primarily derived from member fees as well as listener donations.”
"Funded" and "receives some funding" are not meant to mean the same thing here.
How are "funded" and "receives funding" different?
Entire budget vs. a small part. VOA, for instance, says it's "funded by the U.S. Government through the U.S. Agency for Global Media." Big difference between 4%-funded and 100%-funded.
And yet, VOA has no state-affiliated marker on Twitter.
If NPR has one, VOA should definitely have one.
VOA doesn't aim for US audiences, so I'm not surprised Twitter before or after Musk didn't pay attention to it.
Yeah, he should be consistent. I'm certain Musk labeled NPR because of their political bias and reach.
But honestly, I don’t think there is a big difference between 4% and 100% if the one receiving 4% actively derides half the nation's political views
I don't think that's an accurate reflection of NPR, but that's just my opinion.
They wrote a terrible hit piece on my church not too long ago.
Ah, that makes sense.
AllSides encourages open dialogue between our team members. One of our greatest strengths is the ideological diversity of our team, and team members' willingness to speak their minds.
This conversation was edited for brevity by Daily News Editor Joseph Ratliff (Lean Left bias).