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PandoDaily Shames WNET Into Returning $3.5 Million Grant

PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 22:  Stephen Segaller, WNET executive-in-charge, and Dave Clark, musician, songwriter and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, speak onstage during the 'Great Performances/"Glad All Over - The Dave Clark Five and Beyond"  ' panel discussion at the PBS portion of the 2014 Winter Television Critics Association tour at Langham Hotel on January at Langham Hotel on January 22, 2014 in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images) Stephen Segaller

According to the New York Times, WNET has decided to give back a $3.5 million donation from the Arnold Foundation after a PandoDaily report earlier this week ("How PBS is becoming the Plutocratic Broadcasting Service") said the network’s "Pension Peril" reporting was in direct contrast to foundation creator John Arnold's efforts to cut "public employee pension benefits." Though the New York City station first replied to the story by saying they stuck to their backing — and honestly, what public television broadcaster wouldn’t? — it seems PBS persuaded them to return the gift “in order to eliminate any perception on the part of the public, our viewers and donors that the foundation’s interests influenced the editorial integrity of the reporting for this program."

If you’re not quite sure what the stink is all about it, it’s something like this: Arnold is a former hedge-funder whom PandoDaily says has “financially backed efforts to persuade municipalities to cut public employee pension benefits,” like retirement packages for firefighters and police officers, in the past. The situation looks especially bad because the PBS NewsHour Weekend report didn’t actually have any other sponsors (though WNET says they’d been soliciting). Ultimately, Stephen Segaller, vice president for programming, released a simple statement on the matter: “We made a mistake, pure and simple.”

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Photo: Frederick M. Brown/2014 Getty Images