The publicly funded TV channel PBS has become the second US broadcaster to stop its activity on Twitter because of a controversy with owner Elon Musk. Twitter recognized PBS as a state-funded media organization, as did broadcaster NPR. The broadcasters find this misleading, since state funds only make up a small part of the financing. Since the change, PBS has not tweeted and has no plans to do so, a spokesman told Bloomberg on Thursday. The last tweet on the PBS account is from April 8th.
Labeling chaos and complaints
NPR had announced the day before that the more than 50 user accounts on Twitter should no longer be supplied with new content until further notice. Musk initially had the NPR account placed in a row with the Chinese news agency Xinhua or the Kremlin TV station Russia Today with the award as a state-controlled media organization. After criticism, the tag was changed to say NPR is a government-funded media organization. Yet less than 1 percent of NPR’s $300 million annual budget comes from government funds. At PBS it’s around 15 percent.
NPR said the new classification undermined the network’s credibility because it falsely implied that it was not editorially independent. The British public broadcaster BBC was also initially described in its account as being funded by the government. After criticism and protests from the BBC, Musk gave in and had the label changed to “publicly funded”. However, the BBC noticed even more inconsistencies in the allocation of the label.
The tech billionaire and head of the electric car manufacturer Tesla has long seen himself treated unfairly, especially by the US media. For his more than 134 million Twitter followers, Musk serves as an amplifier for right-wing political views. The media recently accused Musk of being “racist” towards whites.