SEATTLE — Up until his recent messy divorce, Bill Gates enjoyed something of a free pass in corporate media. Generally presented as a kindly nerd who wants to save the world, the Microsoft co-founder was even unironically christened “Saint Bill” by The Guardian.
While other billionaires’ media empires are relatively well known, the extent to which Gates’s cash underwrites the modern media landscape is not. After sorting through over 30,000 individual grants, MintPress can reveal that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) has made over $300 million worth of donations to fund media projects.
Recipients of this cash include many of America’s most important news outlets, including CNN, NBC, NPR, PBS and The Atlantic. Gates also sponsors a myriad of influential foreign organizations, including the BBC, The Guardian, The Financial Times and The Daily Telegraph in the United Kingdom; prominent European newspapers such as Le Monde (France), Der Spiegel (Germany) and El País (Spain); as well as big global broadcasters like Al-Jazeera.
The Gates Foundation money going towards media programs has been split up into a number of sections, presented in descending numerical order, and includes a link to the relevant grant on the organization’s website.
Together, these donations total $166,216,526. The money is generally directed towards issues close to the Gateses hearts. For example, the $3.6 million CNN grant went towards “report[ing] on gender equality with a particular focus on least developed countries, producing journalism on the everyday inequalities endured by women and girls across the world,” while the Texas Tribune received millions to “to increase public awareness and engagement of education reform issues in Texas.” Given that Bill is one of the charter schools’ most fervent supporters, a cynic might interpret this as planting pro-corporate charter school propaganda into the media, disguised as objective news reporting.
The Gates Foundation has also given nearly $63 million to charities closely aligned with big media outlets, including nearly $53 million to BBC Media Action, over $9 million to MTV’s Staying Alive Foundation, and $1 million to The New York Times Neediest Causes Fund. While not specifically funding journalism, donations to the philanthropic arm of a media player should still be noted.
Gates continues to underwrite a wide network of investigative journalism centers as well, totaling just over $38 million, more than half of which has gone to the D.C.-based International Center for Journalists to expand and develop African media.
Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism (Nigeria) – $360,211
Institute for Advanced Journalism Studies – $254,500
Global Forum for Media Development (Belgium) – $124,823
Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting – $100,000
In addition to this, the Gates Foundation also plies press and journalism associations with cash, to the tune of at least $12 million. For example, the National Newspaper Publishers Association — a group representing more than 200 outlets — has received $3.2 million.