CBS Evening News Wakes Up to Find Non-profit Gets Funding

CBS Evening News Wakes Up to Find Non-profit Gets Funding
Report criticizes National Sleep Foundation for drug industry financing, but ignores backing for Public Citizen, as well as its own advertisements.

By Dan Gainor
March 30, 2005

     CBC Evening News employed an obvious double standard in its coverage of a new study indicating Americans arent getting enough sleep. Rather than simply focus on the study, reporter Sharyl Attkisson attacked the group that did the research because it gets funding from the sleep industry.

     According to Attkisson, the issue was Whether America's sleepiness is a real epidemic or just a pipe dream of the drug industry. She relied on comments from Consumer watchdog Dr. Sidney Wolfe. Attkisson failed to mention that Wolfe is the Health Research Group Director for Public Citizen, a left-wing advocacy group that advocates for increased regulation, against tort reform and produces a publication about House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) that is called DeThrone DeLay.

     Despite that obvious political bias, Attkisson never asked Wolfe about his funding while using funding to undermine the reliability of the National Sleep Foundation. But before you're convinced that we've become a nation of walking zombies, you might want to consider what we found when we checked into who funds the National Sleep Foundation: companies that make - you guessed it - sleeping pills and other insomnia remedies, she explained.

     After interviewing Wolfe, Attkisson introduced Noted sleep doctor Meir Kryger, a member of the foundations board of directors. Does it hurt the credibility of the poll that the foundation is heavily funded by the pharmaceutical industry? she asked.

     According to Attkisson, The national sleep foundation wouldn't tell us how much money it actually gets from drug companies, like the makers of Ambien. The report continued with a small excerpt from the Ambien commercial. Viewers probably didnt notice that commercial was actually part of the report since CBS itself relies so heavily on support from the pharmaceutical industry. In the same broadcast where they were criticizing drug industry funding for the National Sleep Foundation, CBS ran commercials for the drugs Nasonex, Lavitra, Singulair, Lamisil and Vytorin. Other commercials highlighted traditional favorites such as Advil and Mylanta.

     While CBS Evening News rightly embraces the free market approach for itself and welcomes pharmaceutical advertising, apparently they don't want others to enjoy the same freedom.

     ABCs World News Tonight showed a better way to go after the story. After anchor Peter Jennings mentioned that this was Sleep Awareness Week, he added, And we are told that the problem is particularly acute with teenagers. Rather than attack the funding for the foundation, reporter John McKenzie focused on the problem with teens, including one Minneapolis school district that has made start times later to help students get enough sleep. Researchers in Minneapolis found that, with more sleep, there were fewer students sleeping in classrooms and fewer mood swings, disciplinary problems and school drop-outs, added McKenzie.