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Disclose or else

University of Maine at Machias economics professor Jonathan Reisman, a former Republican congressional candidate, is preparing to escalate his conflict with the Maine Public Broadcasting Network. Reisman has long contended that MPBN’s coverage of environmental issues is biased because some of its underwriters are advocacy groups pushing a green agenda.

In an e-mail, Reisman told me he’s asking his state senator to introduce legislation to call attention to that perceived conflict of interest. “When an MPBN report substantially involves and/or quotes an MPBN underwriter or sponsor,” he wrote, “that relationship must be disclosed at the end of the report.”

Reisman said he’s aware there might be First Amendment concerns about government dictating news content, but he believes the state subsidy MPBN receives allows for such interference.

MPBN president and CEO Mark Vogelzang had no comment on Reisman’s proposal, but said that all underwriters are already disclosed on the air in accordance with federal law. Vogelzang pointed out that commercial broadcasters don’t run disclosures when they air stories involving their advertisers.

While Reisman’s proposal may appear extreme, he isn’t alone in raising concerns about bias in MPBN’s news coverage of matters involving its underwriters. Opponents of wind-turbine construction in Maine’s wilderness areas have long contended that donations to the network from companies building such projects have had an undue influence on public radio’s reporting.