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From Neil Best's Desk: Our Commitment To The Marketplace Of Ideas

KUNC Pres. Neil Best

The issue of fracking is a hot button issue in Colorado, and KUNC has received questions about why we’ve accepted underwriting from Coloradans for Responsible Energy Development, an oil-and gas industry trade organization that supports fracking.

Some have questioned whether we’ve offered equal time to opposing groups.

Charles Quinton wrote us:

Could you at least give equal time to local conservation groups that are fighting for our right to regulate this potentially devastating industry? I know that our pockets are not as deep as those of the energy companies, but it is the least we should expect from a public radio station.

There has been much internal discussion about this topic as well.

KUNC values its position as a trusted, objective news source. We hold ourselves to a higher standard than other media outlets who have a clear political bias or agenda.

One of KUNC’s core values is to provide balance in our programming, ensuring that all points of view are presented on the station. We trust that our listeners can be presented with information and make up their own minds. While we reserve the right to refuse underwriting that is obscene or that promotes hate or violence, we strongly believe that limiting opposing views on controversial issues would be a disservice to our audience.

In addition, KUNC has to comply with FCC regulations regarding our underwriting messages. All underwriting has to be a neutral description of products or services, and not a promotional message. All underwriting must start by identifying who is paying for the announcement. And as a non-commercial public radio station, we are not allowed to take any underwriting from political groups, or that takes a political position for or against any candidate or ballot issue in any upcoming election.

The announcements from CRED are very transparent — they have clearly stated who they are, and if you go to their website, it’s easy to see who is behind their information. Unlike political action committees, who don’t have to disclose their donors, CRED is set up as a trade organization for oil and gas companies. As of now, there is no fracking issue up for a vote this election season. If and when the issue does appear on the ballot, CRED underwriting will not be allowed.

But to reject CRED’s underwriting at this time would be to take a position on the issue. To maintain credibility as a news source, we must remain neutral. There’s no specific reason we could give to refuse this underwriting, except to say that we disagree with them and their right to present opposing information.

We feel that it’s up to the listener to decide if they accept the information.

Similarly, if we were to donate underwriting to less-funded opposing groups, we could no longer claim to be unbiased. Either refusing CRED or donating to opponents would further the troubling stereotype that all public media is liberally-biased.

We are committed to maintaining objectivity.

Most importantly, in spite of all the questions we’ve received about our underwriting, no one has questioned the integrity of our extensive reporting on the issue. We maintain a strict firewall between our underwriting and our news coverage. Our reporters have covered issues raised by anti-fracking groups, and their battle to get the issue on the ballot in local communities.

We believe our listeners have a variety of views and perspectives, and don’t hold uniform beliefs. Sometimes the information we present will be challenging and/or upsetting to some segment. But to tailor what you hear to an assumed single-mindedness would contradict our mission.

Warm Regards,

President & CEO

PS: Your thoughts and comments are always welcome below... or you can reach out directly at neil.best@kunc.org, @neil_best, or 970.350.0806

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