Sunday, October 03, 2004


I'm from the BBC; I'm here to help

Nothing overly new here to you skeptics of the mainstream media (is there anyone left who isn't?), but ... the BBC appears to have rewritten a news report in a manner that now makes Bush look worse than did the original.

The BBC report currently in question is this one:

ACLU is protesting against a US Government demand that charities screen employees against being on a suspected terrorist "watch list".

Non-compliance would result in a charity losing support in raising funds from government employees.

The story describes how the ACLU has been denied funding because they are standing up to the government over the government's demand that charities screen their staff. The charities are expected to ensure that charity staff are not terrorists by checking them against a list, supplied by the government.

Now - and here's the rub - it's not really a demand by the government, per se. In fact, it's just that the government won't match other peoples' contributions unless the charity does this employee-checking first. Individuals, who are usually government employees, are still free to donate to the ACLU, as always.

The original BBC report, as I viewed it, noted this detail, but it's been subsequently changed and the report now fails to mention that it's just the matching donations that are foregone. The report has been rewritten in a manner implying that the government is simply preventing employees from contributing at all, which is false.

Ok, you say, why shouldn't the government have the same right as anyone else to choose the charities to whom it will contribute (leaving aside the matter of whether or not the government should even support one charity over another in the first place)? Good question. You'll have to ask the ACLU, I guess.

Anyway, I'd better prove my thesis.

Here's a sample news report on this story, or at least the relevant sections. If you're a careful reader, you'll note that the BBC sometimes confuses thousands with millions, which will become important in a moment, but for now we'll let it slide:
The American Civil Liberties Union withdrew from a federal charity drive yesterday, rejecting the $500,000 that it had expected to receive through the charity this year.
The program collects and distributes $250 million in contributions from federal employees and military personnel.

Note from the above that the employees donate $250,000 ($250 million seems like a misprint), but the ACLU is gonna lose double that - i.e. $500,000. Clearly, the difference is the formerly matching government contributions. Note too that the ACLU should not actually have to lose the full $500,000. Not if their donors are loyal! At most, they should only lose half of that, presuming that the ACLU's previously committed donors continue to donate as they did before.

So it appears that the crux of this story is in the matching funds provided by the feds. That's the part of the story that was edited out afterwards.

Further confirmation can be found here. I quote:
In response to a requirement of the PATRIOT Act, the ACLU withdrew from a Federal Donation Program that provides matching funds [my emphasis] from the federal government for federal employees. The requirement was that ACLU employees must be checked against a federal anti-terrorism watch list. The ACLU estimates that it will lose approximately $500,000 in such contributions.
And, if you're wondering, sorry, but I did not make a copy of the original report as posted by the BBC (argh! I wish I had!), but I know what I saw.

On the plus side, it inspired me to start this blog!

UPDATE: There is a payroll deduction system that government employees can use to donate to the ACLU, as a convenience. So in addition to the loss of matching funds, the ACLU could potentially lose the use of the payroll deduction service as well. However, government employees could still donate to the ACLU as do other members of the public.