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Twitter is no longer branding National Public Radio (NPR) “state-sponsored media.”
Elon Musk’s Twitter changed the “state-sponsored media” label on NPR’s Twitter account to “government-funded media” on Saturday.
The social media giant initially slapped the “state-sponsored media” label on the radio news outlet on Tuesday, at which point NPR’s account stopped tweeting. NPR’s last tweet was a link to one of its own articles on Tuesday.
After Twitter’s move, NPR changed its Twitter bio to state that it is “an independent news organization committed to informing the public about the world around us.”
On Wednesday, NPR President and CEO John Lansing said he was “disturbed” by Twitter’s initial decision to label the outlet “state-sponsored media” and called the move “unacceptable.”
“NPR and our Member stations are supported by millions of listeners who depend on us for the independent, fact-based journalism we provide. NPR stands for freedom of speech and holding the powerful accountable,” Lansing tweeted.
“It is unacceptable for Twitter to label us this way. A vigorous, vibrant free press is essential to the health of our democracy,” he added.
Twitter defines “state-affiliated 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’s radio stations are partially funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), a nonprofit funded by the federal government. The CPB also funds Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) television stations.
However, CPB says NPR is “principally funded by member stations, distribution services, underwriting and institutional grants and individual contributions,” according to the CPB website.
“On average, less than 1% of NPR’s annual operating budget comes in the form of grants from CPB and federal agencies and departments,” NPR says.
NPR correspondent David Gura pointed out that Twitter apparently edited its policy to remove a reference to NPR as a media outlet that has “editorial independence.”
“Yesterday, @elonmusk’s Twitter labeled NPR ‘state-affiliated media,’ even though the company’s own policy stated the organization shouldn’t be labeled as such because it has editorial independence,” Gura tweeted on Wednesday.
The original “state-sponsored media” label given to NPR prompted comparisons to the “Russian state-affiliated media” label given to Russia Today’s Twitter account and the “China state-affiliated media” one given China’s Xinhua News.
By law, it is illegal for the U.S. government to exercise “any direction, supervision, or control over the content or distribution of public telecommunications programs and services,” according to the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967.
Twitter has put the same “government-funded media” label on the British Broadcasting Corporation’s (BBC) Twitter account.
The BBC quickly objected to the move.
“We are speaking to Twitter to resolve this issue as soon as possible. The BBC is, and always has been, independent. We are funded by the British public through the licence fee.”
“What does BBC stand for again? I keep forgetting,” Twitter owner Elon Musk quipped in a tweet.
On Wednesday, the White House chimed in defending NPR as independent from government influence.
“There’s no doubt of the independence of NPR’s journalists,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said. “If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of their questions you know that they have their independence in journalism.”