Twitter Labels NPR, BBC, PBS ‘Government Funded Media’ After Backlash

After its decision to slap National Public Radio with a ‘state-affiliated media’ label drew heavy criticism this week, Twitter is whistling a (slightly) different tune, changing the label to read ‘government funded’. in a low-key change made on Saturday night.

The label has also been affixed to the accounts of several other media outlets that receive state support, including PBS, the BBC and Voice of America. It appears to have been applied inconsistently – as of Sunday evening accounts from other government-backed media like CBC in Canada and Al Jazeera in Qatar did not carry the label. Other accounts affiliated with the BBC, such as those belonging to its latest news and international news desks, were also untagged.

The designation prompted a quick response from the BBC, which said in a report that he was “speaking to Twitter to resolve this issue as soon as possible”.

“The BBC is, and always has been, independent,” the national broadcaster continued. “We are funded by the British public through licensing fees.”

The UK government sets and regulates the license fee of £159, which is paid annually by households and businesses that have access to live TV and iPlayer services.

Prior to Musk’s takeover of Twitter, the “state-affiliated” label was most closely associated with propaganda outlets like China’s Xinhua News and Russia’s RT and Sputnik agencies. John Lansing, president and CEO of NPR, officially protested the tag when it was placed on the outlet’s Twitter account, which has 8.8 million followers, on Tuesday.

“NPR stands for free speech and empowering the powerful,” Lansing said. “It is unacceptable for Twitter to label us this way. A vigorous and vibrant free press is essential to the health of our democracy.

NPR officials asked Twitter to remove the fake tag. On Friday, an NPR spokesperson said The daily beast that they would not tweet from the account until the issue was resolved, but clarified that it was not a “boycott”.

In an email exchange with an NPR reporter in the days after the account was first tagged, Musk seemed unclear as to what “state-affiliated media” actually is. He admitted to the reporter that the label “may not be accurate” for NPR and that he was still evaluating the matter. When told that NPR operates independently of the US government and receives less than 1% of its average annual budget from federal sources, Musk replied, “Well, then we should correct [the label].”

When clicked, the new “government-funded” label links to a page on Twitter’s help site that defines “state-affiliated media” as “outlets where the state exercises control on editorial content through financial resources, direct or indirect political pressure, and/or control of production and distribution. The page does not define what it considers to be “government funded media”.

When contacted by email for a comment, Twitter automatically responded with a poo emoji.

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