Elon Musk has directed Twitter to label National Public Radio (NPR) as “state-affiliated media,” a designation previously reserved for media outlets in autocratic counties such as China and Russia.
“State-affiliated media is defined as outlets where the state exercises control over editorial content through financial resources, direct or indirect political pressures, and/or control over production and distribution,” read a memo Musk circulated announcing the decision, adding “Seems accurate.”
Seems accurate pic.twitter.com/nx5TmJY7GX
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 5, 2023
The news of NPR’s designation was not well-received by members of its staff who argued that the station receives between one and two percent of its overall funding from federal grant programs. Station correspondents took to their own Twitter accounts offering pushback:
Uh, no… pic.twitter.com/ki7vo9TIBi
— Jeff Brady (@jeffbradynews) April 5, 2023
Labeling @NPR state-affiliated media is wholly inaccurate and untruthful. NPR gets LESS THAN 2% of its funding from grants through the federal government. NPR’s newsroom is an absolutely free and independent newsroom; always has been. This label is a LIE and an insult. pic.twitter.com/2iS04hMeQ1
— Ashley Westerman (Valdez) (@_aswesterman) April 5, 2023
Widely regarded as a left-leaning news institution, NPR has weathered criticism in recent years for adjusting its news to suit an audience that by one poll measured 43 percent of its listeners as Democrats, the largest listening bloc.
During the onset of Covid-19 in April 2020, NPR ran back-to-back pieces dismissing the theory that the virus escaped a Wuhan epidemiology lab as being on “thin ice” with “virtually no chance” such a scenario could occur. No correction has been attached to either story since earlier this year when U.S. officials designated a lab leak as the most likely culprit.
In March, the station reported there was “limited scientific evidence” that male athletes possess physical advantages over their female counterparts. NPR was forced to retract its statement and state that higher levels of testosterone equate to higher levels of physical performance. When the station claimed there was “limited research involving elite trans athletes,” readers quickly added context showing a major study by the British Journal of Sports Medicine that trans-identified males retain a competitive advantage over women.
Correction: An earlier tweet incorrectly stated there is limited scientific evidence of physical advantage. Existing research shows that higher levels of testosterone do impact athletic performance. But there’s limited research involving elite trans athletes in competition.
— NPR (@NPR) March 26, 2023
Republicans have for years reiterated calls to strip NPR of its federal funding, with perhaps the most memorable being an attempt by then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich to “zero out” NPR’s line item in the federal budget. The change hasn’t stuck because Congress funds the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), not NPR. CPB allocates about 2 percent of its annual funding to the individual station.