Project Aims at Corporate-Funded Journalism Research

Harvard University's Nieman Foundation for Journalism published a new commentary today that says to beware of research and experts that seem independent but are actually funded indirectly by corporations with the intention of influencing public policy.

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Harvard University's Nieman Foundation for Journalism published a new commentary today that says to beware of research and experts that seem independent but are actually funded indirectly by corporations with the intention of influencing public policy.

"It is clear that we are in the age of 'stink tanks,' in which corporate-funded think tanks and well-paid, credentialed academics are hired to make corporate arguments and give the appearance of being independent experts," says the article published by the project. Groups and experts mentioned in the report include the American Enterprise Institute-Brookings Joint Center for Regulatory Studies, the US Internet Industry Association, the American Consumer Institute, and Consumers for Cable Choice.

"Reports by well-known think tanks and individuals funded by telecoms are helping quash competition, increase phone rates, and set up a corporate-oriented Internet system," it says. "Is there any reason to trust these reports? Or to trust experts who testify before regulators without revealing the sources of their funding?" The article says that it believes the recent Federal Trade Commission's report on broadband connectivity and the Department of Justice's comments on Net neutrality are two instances of analysis based on the testimony of these corporate-backed experts, many funded by Verizon and AT&T. The article also argues that the IRS should remove these groups' nonprofit status and consider imposing penalties for violation of that status.

It says the Justice Department should investigate bringing criminal and civil charges for defrauding the government. The report can been seen at the Nieman website, www.niemanwatchdog.org.

—Danielle Knight