State of the Billionaire Press: Concerns over Media Objectivity after Bill Gates Gives $319 Million to News Outlets

by Vins
Published: Updated:

In November of 2021, MintPress News’ Alan Macleod uncovered documents exposing $319 million of donations granted by the Gates Foundation to various American and foreign media outlets. The main beneficiaries of these grants include a variety of mainstream, independent, foreign, and domestic outlets such as CNN, PBS, NPR, The Guardian, Le Monde, and Al-Jazeera. Significant grants were also received by various organizations, business ventures, and universities.

One donation in awarded $3.6 million grant CNN’s reporting on gender inequality in developing nations. Another considerable donation was given to the Texas Tribune to increase social awareness and support for education reform in the state. The Gates family are supporters of the charter system, it is possible the Texas Tribune grant could inspire pro-charter school propaganda.

In addition to the cause-related grants, Gates also allocated $12 million to directly fund press and journalism associations. One organization, the National Newspaper Publishers Association, which represents more than 200 outlets, has received more than a fourth of that donation.

Part of these funds are used to train journalists around the world, in the form of scholarships, courses, and workshops. This means the Gates Foundation has some role in tuning the focus of those crucial training programs, and journalists reporting on healthcare, education, and global development do so under the influence of the Gates Foundation.

Although the Gates Foundation has often been lauded for its philanthropy, critics note that the ability of Gates and his fellow billionaires to donate large sums of money to media organizations also strengthens their ability to set the public agenda. From the acquisition of the Washington Post by Jeff Bezos, the wealthy founder of Amazon, to Elon Musk’s nine percent stake in Twitter, tech billionaires increasingly wield “clear and obvious forms of media influence,” MacLeod wrote. Noting that receiving Gates Foundation money does not make any media outlet “irredeemably corrupt,” MacLeod nonetheless warned that Gates’ money “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.”

As of April 2022 no major corporate media outlets appear to have covered this important story, although journalist Matt Taibbi did discuss it with Joe Rogan on Spotify a few weeks after the publication of MacLeod’s report.

Source: Alan MacLeod, “Revealed: Documents Show Bill Gates Has Given $319 Million to Media Outlets,” MintPress News, November 15, 2021.

Student Researcher: Reagan Haynie (Loyola Marymount University)

Faculty Evaluator: Mickey Huff (Diablo Valley College)