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PATH’s meningitis vaccine project on Good Morning America | 

PATH’s meningitis vaccine project was featured on ABC’s Good Morning America show on Memorial Day:

Here’s my post from early December, when PATH, the World Health Organization, UNICEF and other partners started immunizing in Burkina Faso, the culmination of a decade-long struggle to develop an inexpensive meningitis vaccine designed for use only against an epidemic strain in Africa.

While the immunization campaign is impressive, having already protected some 20 million people, the real game-changer here was the demonstration by PATH (with funding from the Gates Foundation) that it was feasible to develop a new vaccine of benefit only to poor communities at a cost — about 50 cents — they could afford. I wrote a bit more about this project recently in a story on PATH’s 34th anniversary.

The GooMoAmerica story, as part of ABC’s Be The Change: Save A Life series, was also funded by the Gates Foundation. ABC, to its credit, mentioned this in its report.

Some are disturbed about the extent to which the Seattle philanthropy, which of course is a big player itself in global health, is funding media coverage of global health. The Gates Foundation says it takes a hands-off approach and is just trying to encourage more coverage of neglected issues.

Gates-funded ABC News series on global health raises $500,000 | 

ABC News

Several people have noted that the Gates Foundation-funded ABC News’ just-launched year-long series devoted to global health — “Be the Change: Save a Life” — has already raised half a million dollars for some of the causes featured on the television report.

Said ABC:

The response from viewers was overwhelming. In the first week after the special aired, nearly 10,000 people donated more than $500,000 to organizations working on problems highlighted in “Be the Change” ….

Okay, that’s a good thing if taken in isolation. But nothing happens in isolation, of course. Continue reading

Gates-funded ABC series raises concerns about global health … and media | 

ABC News

Tonight on ABC News, the television network launches its year-long global health series “Be the Change” hosted by Diane Sawyer and funded in part ($1.5 million) by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

It’s great that ABC is devoting so much time and effort to global health issues. But having the Gates Foundation pay them to do it is a sore point for some, for a variety of reasons. I’ll get to those in a moment.

I’m not going to focus much on the series itself, since it’s just starting, except to say the first story is based in Guatemala and focuses on the problem of chronic malnutrition. Here’s one of ABC’s promo shots:

ABC News

Posing for a Change

Yeah, I thought this photo was a little odd for a news site: “Hi everybody! Here I am in Antigua!”

But what may trouble others more were all the many references on the ABC web site to the Gates Foundation — including numerous video clips of Bill and Melinda Gates. Also, much of this series actually sounds like — and is — a pitch for donations to numerous charitable causes.

You may well ask: So Mr. Cranky, why are either of these a problem? Continue reading

Thoughts on the Gates Foundation paying media to cover global health and development | 

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has gotten a lot of attention lately for funding media organizations.

Flickr, Genista

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An article in the current Columbia Journalism Review called “How Ray Suarez Really Caught the Global Health Bug” by local writer Robert Fortner, formerly of Seattle’s Crosscut, is perhaps the most extensive and pointed.

I had to laugh at the article’s title (based on the title of a talk given by Suarez in Seattle a while ago). Fortner’s answer is Suarez and PBS Newshour got the bug after they received $3.6 million from Gates to cover global health issues.

Fortner, who wrote about the Gates Foundation for Crosscut, said he quit in 2009 because of his unease with publisher David Brewster accepting funds from the Gates Foundation. Brewster told me he had not been aware that this was the reason Fortner left.

The latest Gates media partnership was what the New York Times called “an unusual financial agreement” between ABC News and the world’s biggest philanthropy aimed at promoting greater coverage of global health issues. Continue reading