Southern California’s KPCC radio station got the heebie jeebies over its business relationship with Planned Parenthood.
On Friday, Program Director Craig Curtis emailed operations and news staff the following:
From: “Curtis, Craig”
Date: Fri, 8 Apr 2011 12:15:31
Subject: Planned Parentood credit suspension
Given that the budget debate in congress is focusing today on abortion in general and Planned Parenthood by extension, let us suspend airing any Planned Parenthood spots effective immediately.
There is nothing wrong with the spots per se, or with our business relationship with Planned Parenthood, but for a few days their presence on our air might raise questions in the mind of the “reasonable listener” regarding our editorial and sales practices. I expect this will be a short-term suspension. In fact, let’s go ahead and plan to resume the Planned Parenthood spots on Monday. If we need to extend the suspension, I’ll let you know. Traffic, please work with the sales department to arrange makegoods or adjust the contract dates when we resume the schedule. Craig
(Somewhat rhetorical) Questions: politics aside, does a news organization’s advertisers reflect bias in their coverage, or somehow taint their independence? If so, how should news organizations handle “politically sensitive” advertisers?
Update: Thanks to KPCC’s comunity editor Kim Bui we’ve been shown an update Craig Curtis posted on the radio station’s Facebook Fan Page. In it he writes that it is station policy to pull ads by underwriters who become part of a story:
When that happens at KPCC, our standard practice is to “bump” credits to avoid the appearance of any conflict. This is a common policy at many news radio stations, and something that happens a few times each year at KPCC.
I think that’s responsible but am still interested in the questions I asked above. —Michael