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PBS joins list of news outlets going dark on Twitter

The public broadcaster has not tweeted since an errant "government-funded" label was applied to their account.

The public broadcaster has not tweeted since an errant "government-funded" label was applied to their account.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen speaks with Sesame Street Muppets Jesse and Rosita at a preview of the PBS special "When Families Grieve" in the Pentagon on April 13, 2010. The program portrays the tales of children coping with the loss of a parent and skills that have helped them move forward.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen speaks with Sesame Street Muppets Jesse and Rosita at a preview of the PBS special “When Families Grieve” in the Pentagon on April 13, 2010. The program portrays the tales of children coping with the loss of a parent and skills that have helped them move forward. (Photo by Petty Officer Chad J. McNeeley, U.S. Navy; Public domain image)

Public television outlet PBS has stopped posting updates and other content to its main Twitter accounts, becoming the latest media organization to shun the social media platform over certain antics.

The decision to go dark on Twitter follows one made by public radio program distributor NPR after the social platform affixed a “state-affiliated media” label to its account two weeks ago. The tag was later amended to read “government-funded,” which is misleading.

Like NPR, PBS was slapped with a “government-funded” tag on their main profile. Unlike NPR, officials at PBS didn’t make a public announcement that they were ending their activity on Twitter — they simply stopped tweeting.

Business publication Axios was the first to note PBS had stopped publishing updates through Twitter, with officials confirming the move to its media reporter, Sara Fischer.

“We did stop tweeting at that point as soon as we discovered it,” a spokesperson for PBS affirmed. “We have no plans to resume tweeting.”

PBS and NPR produce programs that are purchased by independent member stations. Both organizations receive a small amount of funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the not-for-profit corporation established by Congress to support public media initiatives.

The overwhelming majority of funding to PBS and NPR comes from corporate sponsorships, private grants and revenue generated through the sale of its programming to independent radio and television outlets, which both refer to as “member stations.”

Neither PBS nor NPR own or directly operate radio or television broadcast stations in the United States. NPR did operate a radio station in Germany for several years before the broadcast license was transferred to California-based KCRW (the station stopped broadcasting in 2020).

Twitter has long sought to inform users about media outlets that have a direct connection to a government. In recent weeks, Twitter owner Elon Musk has applied the “state-affiliated” and “government-funded” label to accounts that have only a cursory connection to or funding by a government.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is a nationally-recognized, award-winning journalist who has covered the business of media, technology, radio and television for more than 11 years. He is the publisher of The Desk and contributes to Know Techie, Digital Content Next and StreamTV Insider. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, the Walt Disney Company, McNaughton Newspapers and Tribune Broadcasting.
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