the guardian is the paper i most love to hate

How Bill Gates bankrolls the media outlet that claims it’s not backed by billionaires
Rob Lyons, RT.com, Nov 19 2021

If you want to know what the ‘woke’ set are thinking, on issues from climate change to trans rights, The Guardian’s the newspaper to read. While its print sales have been in decline, falling over the past decade from 248,775 a day to 105,134 in July this year, The Guardian is one of the most visited news websites in the world. The trouble is it keeps losing money. Four months ago, it was reported that the Guardian Media Group, which also owns The Observer, a closely related Sunday broadsheet, had lost over £10m in the previous financial year, although that was still an improvement on the £17m loss the year before. The Guardian doesn’t have a paywall in the same way as other newspapers, but does employ what computer types used to call ‘nagware,’ constantly prompting users to sign up or to make donations. However, it has made one rather spurious claim on social media in support of this strategy:

Readers have certainly been generous. According to a Guardian story last year:

The Guardian now has more than one million subscribers and regular contributors, after support from online readers grew by 43% in a year. … When one-off contributions are factored in, more than 1.5 million people have supported the Guardian in the past year.

A million subscribers at £6/month would bring in about £72m/yr. That’s handy, but doesn’t even cover the paper’s losses, never mind its overall running costs. However, as climate commentator Ben Pile has noted, billionaires love The Guardian and are very happy to put their hand in their pocket to support its projects. For example, according to MintPress News, a thorough sift through donations from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation shows The Guardian has received a cool $13m in support. In fact, Gates and his now ex-wife have sprayed hundreds of millions of dollars across the media landscape to support the kind of journalism they approve of. But the Gateses aren’t the only billionaires supporting The Guardian. A quick look at its website’s philanthropy section shows that Aussie billionaire Judith Neilson’s institute funds The Guardian Australia’s Pacific Project. The Open Society Foundations, created by George Soros, have backed Guardian projects on America’s environmental inequalities and on transforming care using AI. The David and Lucile Packard Foundation, set up by the late co-founder of Hewlett-Packard in the 1960s, supported its work on the state of the oceans. So the claim that The Guardian isn’t funded by billionaires seems rather dubious.

It’s true that the Guardian Media Group is owned by the Scott Trust rather than by some self-serving media magnate. But the implication of its pitch to readers to cough up money is that anyone who is funded by the super-rich is owned by them, rather than the more reasonable assumption that organisations will seek funding to engage in endeavours such as specialist journalism that aren’t easily funded through other means. Indeed, Guardian writers have been quick to launch ad hominem follow-the-money attacks on other outlets when other journalists write things that aren’t simpatico with The Guardian’s worldview. In an essay last year for the paper, Paul Vallely quite reasonably pointed to the tensions that come with billionaire philanthropy.

A lot of elite philanthropy is about elite causes. Rather than making the world a better place, it largely reinforces the world as it is. Philanthropy very often favours the rich, and no one holds philanthropists to account for it.

The World Health Organization, which made such a mess of tackling Covid-19, is now heavily funded by philanthropists such as Gates and media magnate Michael Bloomberg, skewing its priorities. It’s no surprise that environmentalism is a favoured target for billionaire donations. There is no more elite project than telling the rest of us how we should live our lives. As the famous personages flying in and out of Glasgow for COP26 on private planes demonstrated, the wealthy love to demand action on climate change from the rest of us while continuing to live their gilded lives uninterrupted. Both the press and public policy are too often skewed by the interests of the mega-rich. Media outlets, journalists, arts organisations and charities have long had to make pragmatic decisions about funding in order to do their work. It’s up to the rest of us to make our minds up about what we see and read. What sticks in the throat is The Guardian’s holier-than-thou attitude and misleading sales pitch to readers. Even worse is the fact the UK’s most right-on newspaper when it comes to climate change has survived thanks to the buying and selling of cars. The enormous losses of the Guardian Media Group have been sustained by flogging its stake in used-car website Auto Trader back in 2014, making “between £600m and £700m” on the deal. Perhaps The Guardian needs to save us the lectures and learn that famous lesson from the New Testament:

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?

Revealed: Documents Show Bill Gates Has Given $319M to Media Outlets
Alan Macleod, MintPress News, Nov 15 2021

Bill Gates listens during the “Accelerating Clean Technology Innovation and Deployment”
event at the COP26 UN Climate Summit in Glasgow, Nov 2 2021. Photo: Evan Vucci

SEATTLE — Up until his recent messy divorce, Bill Gates enjoyed something of a free pass in corporate media. Generally presented as a kindly nerd who wants to save the world, the Microsoft co-founder was even unironically christened “Saint Bill” by The Guardian. While other billionaires’ media empires are relatively well known, the extent to which Gates’s cash underwrites the modern media landscape is not. After sorting through over 30k individual grants, MintPress can reveal that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) has made over $300m worth of donations to fund media projects. Recipients of this cash include many of America’s most important news outlets, including CNN, NBC, NPR, PBS and The Atlantic. Gates also sponsors a myriad of influential foreign organizations, including the BBC, The Guardian, The Financial Times and The Daily Telegraph in the UK; prominent European newspapers such as Le Monde (France), Der Spiegel (Germany) and El País (Spain); as well as big global broadcasters like Al-Jazeera. The Gates Foundation money going towards media programs has been split up into a number of sections, presented in descending numerical order, and includes a link to the relevant grant on the organization’s website.

Awards Directly to Media Outlets:

The Gates Foundation has also given nearly $63m to charities closely aligned with big media outlets, including nearly $53m to BBC Media Action, over $9m to MTV’s Staying Alive Foundation, and $1m to the NYT Neediest Causes Fund. While not specifically funding journalism, donations to the philanthropic arm of a media player should still be noted. Gates continues to underwrite a wide network of investigative journalism centers as well, totaling just over $38m, more than half of which has gone to the DC-based International Center for Journalists to expand and develop African media. These centers include:

  • International Center for Journalists – $20,436,938
  • Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (Nigeria) – $3,800,357
  • The Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting – $2,432,552
  • Fondation EurActiv Politech – $2,368,300
  • International Women’s Media Foundation – $1,500,000
  • Center for Investigative Reporting – $1,446,639
  • InterMedia Survey institute – $1,297,545
  • The Bureau of Investigative Journalism – $1,068,169
  • Internews Network – $985,126
  • Communications Consortium Media Center – $858,000
  • Institute for Nonprofit News – $650,021
  • The Poynter Institute for Media Studies – $382,997
  • Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism (Nigeria) – $360,211
  • Institute for Advanced Journalism Studies – $254,500
  • Global Forum for Media Development (Belgium) – $124,823
  • Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting – $100,000

In addition to this, the Gates Foundation also plies press and journalism associations with cash, to the tune of at least $12m. For example, the National Newspaper Publishers Association, a group representing more than 200 outlets, has received $3.2m.

The list of these organizations includes:

  • Education Writers Association – $5,938,475
  • National Newspaper Publishers Association – $3,249,176
  • National Press Foundation – $1,916,172
  • Washington News Council – $698,200
  • American Society of News Editors Foundation – $250,000
  • Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press – $25,000

This brings our running total up to $216.4m. The foundation also puts up the money to directly train journalists all over the world, in the form of scholarships, courses and workshops. Today, it is possible for an individual to train as a reporter thanks to a Gates Foundation grant, find work at a Gates-funded outlet, and to belong to a press association funded by Gates. This is especially true of journalists working in the fields of health, education and global development, the ones Gates himself is most active in and where scrutiny of the billionaire’s actions and motives are most necessary.

Gates Foundation grants pertaining to the instruction of journalists include:

  • Johns Hopkins University –$1,866,408
  • Teachers College, Columbia University – $1,462,500
  • University of California Berkeley – $767,800
  • Tsinghua University (China) – $450,000
  • Seattle University – $414,524
  • Institute for Advanced Journalism Studies – $254,50;
  • Rhodes University (South Africa) – $189,000
  • Montclair State University – $160,538
  • Pan-Atlantic University Foundation – $130,718
  • World Health Organization – $38,403
  • The Aftermath Project – $15,435

The BMGF also pays for a wide range of specific media campaigns around the world. For example, since 2014 it has donated $5.7m to the Population Foundation of India in order to create dramas that promote sexual and reproductive health, with the intent to increase family planning methods in South Asia. Meanwhile, it alloted over $3.5m to a Senegalese organization to develop radio shows and online content that would feature health information. Supporters consider this to be helping critically underfunded media, while opponents might consider it a case of a billionaire using his money to plant his ideas and opinions into the press.

Media projects supported by the Gates Foundation:

$319.4m and (a lot) more

Added together, these Gates-sponsored media projects come to a total of $319.4m. However, there are clear shortcomings with this non-exhaustive list, meaning the true figure is undoubtedly far higher. First, it does not count sub-grants, money given by recipients to media around the world. And while the Gates Foundation fosters an air of openness about itself, there is actually precious little public information about what happens to the money from each grant, save for a short, one- or two-sentence description written by the foundation itself on its website. Only donations to press organizations themselves or projects that could be identified from the information on the Gates Foundation’s website as media campaigns were counted, meaning that thousands of grants having some media element do not appear in this list. A case in point is the BMGF’s partnership with Viacom CBS, the company that controls CBS News, MTV, VH1, Nickelodeon, and BET. Media reports at the time noted that the Gates Foundation was paying the entertainment giant to insert information and PSAs into its programming and that Gates had intervened to change storylines in popular shows like ER and Law & Order: SVU.

However, when checking BMGF’s grants database, “Viacom” and “CBS” are nowhere to be found, the likely grant in question (totaling over $6m) merely describing the project as a “public engagement campaign aimed at improving high school graduation rates and postsecondary completion rates specifically aimed at parents and students,” meaning that it was not counted in the official total. There are surely many more examples like this. “For a tax-privileged charity that so very often trumpets the importance of transparency, it’s remarkable how intensely secretive the Gates Foundation is about its financial flows,” Tim Schwab, one of the few investigative journalists who has scrutinized the tech billionaire, told MintPress. Also not included are grants aimed at producing articles for academic journals. While these articles are not meant for mass consumption, they regularly form the basis for stories in the mainstream press and help shape narratives around key issues. The Gates Foundation has given far and wide to academic sources, with at least $13.6m going toward creating content for the prestigious medical journal The Lancet. And, of course, even money given to universities for purely research projects eventually ends up in academic journals, and ultimately, downstream into mass media. Academics are under heavy pressure to print their results in prestigious journals; “publish or perish” is the mantra in university departments. Therefore, even these sorts of grants have an effect on our media. Neither these nor grants funding the printing of books or establishment of websites counted in the total, although they too are forms of media.

Low profile, long tentacles

In comparison to other tech billionaires, Gates has kept his profile as a media controller relatively low. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’s purchase of the WaPo for $250m in 2013 was a very clear and obvious form of media influence, as was eBay founder Pierre Omidyar’s creation of First Look Media, the company that owns The Intercept. Despite flying more under the radar, Gates and his companies have amassed considerable influence in media. We already rely on Microsoft-owned products for communication (Skype, Hotmail), social media (LinkedIn), and entertainment (Microsoft XBox). Furthermore, the hardware and software we use to communicate often comes courtesy of the 66-year-old Seattleite. How many people reading this are doing so on a Microsoft Surface or Windows phone, and doing so via Windows OS? Not only that, Microsoft owns stakes in media giants such as Comcast and AT&T. And the “MS” in MSNBC stands for Microsoft.

Media Gates keepers

That the Gates Foundation is underwriting a significant chunk of our media ecosystem leads to serious problems with objectivity. Gates’s local Seattle Times wrote in 2011:

The foundation’s grants to media organizations raise obvious conflict-of-interest questions: How can reporting be unbiased when a major player holds the purse strings?

This was before the newspaper accepted BMGF money to fund its “education lab” section. Schwab’s research has found that this conflict of interests goes right to the very top: two NYT columnists had been writing glowingly about the Gates Foundation for years without disclosing that they also work for a group, the Solutions Journalism Network, that as shown above has received over $7m from the tech billionaire’s charity. Earlier this year, Schwab also declined to co-report on a story about COVAX for The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, suspecting that the money Gates had been pumping into the outlet would make it impossible to accurately report on a subject so close to Gates’s heart. Sure enough, when the article was published last month, it repeated the assertion that Gates had little to do with COVAX’s failure, mirroring the BMGF’s stance and quoting them throughout. Only at the very end of the more than 5,000-word story did it reveal that the organization it was defending was paying the wages of its staff. Schwab said:

I don’t believe Gates told The Bureau of Investigative Journalism what to write. I think the bureau implicitly, if subconsciously, knew they had to find a way to tell this story that didn’t target their funder. The biasing effects of financial conflicts are complex but very real and reliable. It’s a case study in the perils of Gates-funded journalism.

MintPress also contacted the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for comment, but it did not respond.

Gates, who amassed his fortune by building a monopoly and zealously guarding his intellectual property, bears significant blame for the failure of the coronavirus vaccine rollout across the world. Quite aside from the COVAX fiasco, he pressured Oxford University not to make its publicly-funded vaccine open-source and available to all for free, but instead to partner with private corporation AstraZeneca, a decision that meant that those who could not pay were blocked from using it. That Gates has made over 100 donations to the university, totaling hundreds of millions of dollars, likely played some role in the decision. To this day, fewer than 5% of people in low-income countries have received even one dose of COVID vaccine. The death toll from this is immense.

Unfortunately, many of these real criticisms of Gates and his network are obscured by wild and untrue conspiracy theories about such things as inserting microchips in vaccines to control the population. This has meant that genuine critiques of the Microsoft co-founder are often demonetized and algorithmically suppressed, meaning that outlets are strongly dissuaded from covering the topic, knowing they will likely lose money if they do so. The paucity of scrutiny of the world’s second-richest individual, in turn, feeds into outlandish suspicions. Gates certainly deserves it. Quite apart from his deep and potentially decades-long ties to the infamous Jeffrey Epstein, his attempts to radically change African society, and his investment in controversial chemical giant Monsanto, he is perhaps the key driver behind the American charter school movement, an attempt to essentially privatize the US education system. Charter schools are deeply unpopular with teachers’ unions, which see the movement as an attempt to lessen their autonomy and reduce public oversight into how and what children are taught.

All the way to the bank

In most coverage, Gates’s donations are broadly presented as altruistic gestures. Yet many have pointed to the inherent flaws with this model, noting that allowing billionaires to decide what they do with their money allows them to set the public agenda, giving them enormous power over society. Linsey McGoey, Professor of Sociology at the University of Essex, and author of No Such Thing as a Free Gift: The Gates Foundation and the Price of Philanthropy, said:

Philanthropy can and is being used deliberately to divert attention away from different forms of economic exploitation that underpin global inequality today. The new ‘philanthrocapitalism’ threatens democracy by increasing the power of the corporate sector at the expense of the public sector organizations, which increasingly face budget squeezes, in part by excessively remunerating for-profit organizations to deliver public services that could be delivered more cheaply without private sector involvement.

Charity, as former British Prime Minister Clement Attlee noted, “is a cold grey loveless thing. If a rich man wants to help the poor, he should pay his taxes gladly, not dole out money at a whim.” None of this means that the organizations receiving Gates’ money, media or otherwise, are irredeemably corrupt, nor that the Gates Foundation does not do any good in the world. But it does introduce a glaring conflict of interest whereby the very institutions we rely on to hold accountable one of the richest and most powerful men in the planet’s history are quietly being funded by him. This conflict of interest is one that corporate media have largely tried to ignore, while the supposedly altruistic philanthropist Gates just keeps getting richer, laughing all the way to the bank.

2 Comments

  1. lobro
    Posted November 20, 2021 at 4:15 am | Permalink

    Pablo Escobar is my favorite philanthropist. Seriously. His crime was dealing recreational drugs. Cocaine is not very toxic and long term sequelae (ok, sequelae is a wrong word, just showing off and wanted to see if i get the spelling right on my own) consequences are minor or unknown. Anyone can overdose on anything, e.g., baking soda (i once followed gf’s advice to have some daily, also apple cider vinegar until one time i had one after the other and nearly croaked—the pain gets baked into the gut memory and since then, no more, i also trust pablo escobar more than my ex-gf).
    And St. Pablo gave tons of cash out to build soccer pitches, schools and stuff all over his homeland, never looked for profit.

    compare any of the above points with Gates, Rockefellers, Soros and jews who rule them, what philanthropists? Look no further than the Sassoon hive.
    i guess when john gives money to a hooker, he is also a philanthropist.

    “the guardian is the paper i most love to hate”

    and trump is the man i most hate to love.

  2. Doug Colwell
    Posted November 21, 2021 at 12:18 am | Permalink

    Nice wordage dude

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