On April 11, PBS plans to broadcast “Fat: What No One is Telling You” — a program sponsored by GlaxoSmithKline.
Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, comments:
The drug giant just happens to have a recently approved for over-the-counter drug on the market under the brand name Alli — that is for — by overweight adults along with a reduced calorie, low-fat diet. A PBS health-related campaign was launched Feb. 14. PBS program executives need to cut the fat out of their sloppy review of what’s appropriate for underwriting. Programs on PBS should be free of connections to sponsors who have a vested interest in an issue. PBS should take one step [that’s the name of a related health public education campaign they running] and clean up its underwriting practices.
PBS defended itself, stating,
Production on FAT: What No One is Telling You began in October 2005 and was nearing the end of production when the corporate sponsor, GlaxoSmithKline, came on board in January 2006 and provided additional funding for the broadcast, community outreach and Spanish language translation. As is always the case with corporate funders of PBS programs, at no time did the corporate sponsor have any editorial input into the show, nor have they seen it, and this strict separation was maintained throughout production. Lastly, the sponsor credit for GlaxoSmithKline is a corporate image spot and does not mention any drug product, including those used to treat obesity.
I am not sure how much GlaxoSmithKline contributed to the program, but no amount is worth undermining the credibility of public broadcasting.25