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article imageOp-Ed: PBS broadcast on drones funded by drone-maker Lockheed-Martin

By Ken Hanly     Jan 31, 2013 in Technology
Bethesda - A Nova broadcast called "Rise of the Drones" was described as having received "additional funding" from drone manufacturer Lockheed-Martin in what seems a violation of PBS guidelines.
Lockheed-Martin is a major part of the US military-industrial complex. In 2011, it had $46 billion in sales. The company manufactures drones used both in warfare and surveillance. Models include the Desert Hawk, the Falcon, the Stalker, and the Tracer.
Nova's history of UAV's included comments by Abe Karem, often called the "father of the Predator" drone. The entire documentary is appended so that you can decide for yourself whether the documentary is mostly upbeat on the new technology and marvels at what it can do. A critical review of the documentary can be seen in the RT video below.
The documentary does not entirely avoid controversies over drones. One section deals with drone pilots who are firing on targets in countries such as Afghanistan or Pakistan. The viewer is told that drone pilots have a distinct advantage over conventional pilots. One drone operator notes that the operator can have the drone "stick around for another few hours to watch what happens afterwards." The documentary does not discuss what are called double tap strikes in which after an attack, the drones attack rescuers or those trying to recover bodies. Nor does the documentary discuss attacks on funerals.
On civilian deaths, the documentary does mention that the facts are hard to come by and that there are not fully reliable counts, all of which is true enough but does not really analyse the ethics of the issue, even though it is also mentioned that by some estimates up to 30 per cent of victims of strikes are civilians and that one strike in Pakistan alone killed 23 civilians.
Nevertheless, the documentary explains that "Drones can strike with pinpoint precision." While the documentary mentions that Iran captured a US drone, it does not mention that the drone was manufactured by Lockheed-Martin. In talking of miniature drones of the future, the documentary does not mention that these are precisely a type of drone being developed by Lockheed-Martin. For some reason the credit for additional funding by Lockheed-Martin has been removed from the video version I have appended to this article.
PBS has three tests to determine the acceptability of a funding arrangement:
* Editorial Control Test: Has the underwriter exercised editorial control? Could it?
* Perception Test: Might the public perceive that the underwriter has exercised editorial control?
* Commercialism Test: Might the public conclude the program is on PBS principally because it promotes the underwriter’s products, services or other business interests?
On the Perception Test, PBS explains that if there exists a clear and direct connection between the interests or products or services of a funder with the subject matter of the program, then the proposed funding will be unacceptable. In this documentary, there obviously is a clear and direct connection between drones and Lockheed-Martin since the company makes drones.
The Commercialism Test is meant to prohibit a funding arrangement where the emphasis of the program is on products and services provided by or similar to those of the funder. "The Rise of the Drones" does emphasize drones and what they can do, and this makes reference to products of Lockheed-Martin and their services.
. As PBS receives less money from the government, it depends upon corporations as well as individual viewers for its funding and hence it should not be too surprising that it should air "Rise of the Drones". While the documentary may be well done and informative it does seem slanted towards emphasis upon the marvels of this technology and its future prominence, indicating that the piper at least gets to set the tone even if not the entire tune.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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