I was thrilled to get a notice from Greenpeace explaining that NDTV and Monsanto have severed ties for the show, "Improving Lives." Though the station claims that the show had nothing to do with agriculture or the promotion of GMO seeds, this should not be comforting.
Once stations accept sponsorship for corporations, publishing anything negative related to said corporation becomes incredibly difficult. The conversation usually goes something like this*:
News station: "Hey, thanks so much for sponsoring our show. That was really nice of you."
Monsanto: "No problem--we admire the work your station's doing."
.... 5 months later, a clinical trial reveals a relationship between tumor formation and GMO consumption.
Monsanto: "So, you're not going to cover that GMO study, are you?"
News station: "Actually we were."
Monsanto: "We have some studies showing GMOs are perfectly safe. You should run that, too, for a balanced story. We'll send that over."
News station: "Our viewers are very anti-GMO, though."
Monsanto: "Then maybe you should reconsider covering the story at all, if you want further funding from us. As it turns out, we were thinking of tripling our contribution from the previous year."
News station: "What if the viewers find out?"
Monsanto: "They don't have to. After all, we're sponsoring a show that has nothing to do with GMOs."
News station: "That's true."
*The dialogue is entirely fictional, but it doesn't take a Nobel economist to realize how incentives are aligned in this situation. Monsanto funds news corporations precisely so it can subtly exert influence over the station's coverage. Corporations are not altruistic, nor are they motivated by anything other than profit. The very first lesson given to business school students is this: "The first goal of any business is to make money." And so, it's naive to think that Monsanto would give money to a network for any reason other than to protect its financial interests.
Monsanto in particular has demonstrated its clout in stifling negative media coverage when and if necessary. As I pointed out in my last article, it had done as much with Fox news and its coverage of the growth hormone, Posilac. Given India's anti-GMO views (rightfully so), the company's clearly trying to sidle up to news stations in an attempt to silence any criticism.
I wrote back to NDTV with the following letter, as I think it's also important to give positive feedback:
I wrote to you on May 28th regarding my concern over your alliance with Monsanto in producing the show, "Improving Lives." It has come to my attention that such partnership has been severed.
I wanted to commend you for your decision to cancel your alliance with this corporation. As a viewer, I really appreciate your willingness to stay uninfluenced and unbiased with respects to your coverage. I am far more willing to trust your station's perspectives when they remain unfunded by Monsanto. Thank you so much.
Great win, everyone!