Imagine a spate of news coverage about a research report - one that cites "bandwidth hogs" as a reasonable justification for broadband data caps - produced by a "think tank" whose chairman is Brian Roberts, also chairman and CEO of Comcast.
And none of that news coverage mentions Roberts or Comcast.
Most of my fellow journalists - and most of my fellow liberals - would consider that a grievous sin of omission. "The public has a right to know who's behind such 'research,'" they would intone.
Yet yesterday and today has seen a spate of coverage about a research report - one that dismisses the notion of bandwidth hogs as nothing but cover for ISP profit hoarding -- with nary a mention that the study's sponsor, the New America Foundation, has been chaired since 2008 by Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt. The three top private donors to the foundation last year - ponying up $1 million-plus - were The Ford Foundation, Bill and Melinda Gates, and Schmidt and his wife, Wendy.
Don't get me wrong - please don't get me wrong - I'm not suggesting that Schmidt's involvement with and financial support of the foundation taints or undermines the conclusions of this research; conclusions with which I agree enthusiastically. (ISPs use data caps to boost profits for the same reason Verizon charges me $5 a month to keep my phone number unlisted: Because they can and I will pay.)
Others won't be as quick to dismiss the link, however, just as I wouldn't be if we were talking about the Koch brothers instead of Schmidt. And when those skeptics find out that the New America Foundation's incredibly impressive board of directors includes Jonathan Soros, son of George Soros, well, watch out.
And it's not as though there isn't a plausible appearance issue here. I mean let's face it: Google/YouTube could be defined as the world's No. 1 producer of bandwidth hogs. The report's bottom-line recommendation - that more competition is needed to deter ISP data caps and drive down broadband prices - dovetails nicely with the corporate policies of Google, which is literally looking to provide such competition itself.
A number of the stories and blog posts about the New America Foundation's research offered nothing by way of description for the organization. Just a little would have been enough: "a self-described nonpartisan think tank chaired by Google's Eric Schmidt."
Add a link and let people decide for themselves whether it matters or not.