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Oct. 29, 2021, 10 p.m.
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LINK: twitter.com  ➚   |   Posted by: Sarah Scire   |   October 29, 2021

I was listening to NPR’s Up First this morning when I heard something a little different. In an episode that included a story on Facebook’s name change, the host noted that “Facebook was, until recently, one of NPR’s sponsors.” (Previously, the disclosure was in the present tense, as in: “We should note that Facebook is a sponsor of NPR.”)

I wasn’t the only one who picked up on the change:

So did NPR drop Facebook as a sponsor, as some folks suggested? Did Facebook cancel?

NPR did tweak its note on transparency for Facebook, confirmed spokesperson Isabel Lara. (“I had no idea people pay such close attention to our disclosure language,” she said. ) But the latest Facebook sponsorship campaign wrapped up in November 2020, so the overnight change wasn’t due to a sudden break. NPR just updated the language to reflect Facebook was a former — not current — sponsor.

It’s not the only tweak that NPR listeners will hear, though. Starting today, NPR will also disclose that “Facebook’s parent company, Meta, pays NPR to license NPR content” in its coverage of the company.

NPR provided some extra context on the change. Facebook still pays it for its content to appear in Facebook’s News tab.

FB has licensing agreements with many publishers, including NPR. Through that arrangement, Facebook pays NPR to have a feed of summaries and links to NPR stories appear in Facebook alongside news from other outlets. NPR retains full editorial control of its content and feed.

I asked NPR if it had declined sponsorship from Facebook since the contract ended a year ago, as some were speculating on social media. Lara sent along NPR’s admirably strict guidelines about the sponsorship campaigns they accept.

“Sometimes our sponsorship team … will ask sponsors to tweak their language or turn down specific campaigns that don’t comply with the guidelines — as you can see in that link it is most often because of advocacy issues or if they’re referring to something that’s very much in the news,” Lara said.

In other words, NPR might turn down a specific campaign that violated guidelines, but wouldn’t bar all campaigns from a specific brand. Not that it would tell us which sponsorships were denied: “We also respect client confidentiality, so we wouldn’t be disclosing what campaigns we turn down,” Lara said.

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