PBS's long-running and award-winning science series, NOVA, aired an hour-long documentary last week on the rapid increase in the development and use of unmanned aerial vehicles, more commonly called drones. It was titled, appropriately, "Rise of the Drones."
Most of this program focuses, as NOVA usually does, on the science, technology and inventiveness that have propelled these new air vehicles to a point where, we are told, "because they have been so effective, the Air Force predicts nearly a third of its attack and fighter planes will be drones within a decade."
It also takes us to future domestic, non-military possibilities with smaller versions, the very thought of which is already stirring controversy.
But in the middle of the program, NOVA does not shy away from reporting, although with less depth, on the darker side of the increasing military usage. (...)
I was surprised to be bombarded by roughly 700 critical emails and phone calls beginning on Jan. 28, five days after the program aired, mostly from those responding to an "Action Alert" from the media-watch organization FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting) urging their subscribers to write to me. The lead of FAIR's analysis said: "The PBS Nova broadcast 'Rise of the Drones' was sponsored by Lockheed-Martin — a clear violation of PBS's underwriting guidelines."
FAIR acknowledged that it wasn't their eagle-eyes that spotted Lockheed's funding involvement. That came from Kevin Gosztola who reported in a posting on Firedoglake.com on Jan. 24 that, "before the documentary began, PBS noted the program had received funding from the David H. Koch Foundation for Science. It also received 'additional funding' from Lockheed Martin." He pointed out that Lockheed is "one of the nation's biggest military defense contractors and is developing drones."
Gosztola also reported that although the actual broadcast included an underwriting announcement including Lockheed at the beginning, "that credit was removed from the webcast, and the company is not credited on the Nova website for the episode."
PBS | Ombudsman
31 Jan 2012