Documents reveal Bill Gates has paid media outlets $319 million to promote his worldwide agenda

According to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's database, the oligarch who is influencing the worldwide pandemic response has spent at least $319 million on hundreds of media sites.

Bill Gates had a clean ride in the corporate media up until his recent nasty divorce. In general, he is portrayed as a kind nerd who wants to save the world, the Microsoft co-founder was even un-ironically christened “Saint Bill” by The Guardian.

While the media empires of other billionaires are well-known, the extent to which Gates' money underpins the current media environment is not. MintPress has discovered that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) has given over $300 million to finance media projects after sifting through over 30,000 individual awards.

Many of America's most prominent news organizations, including CNN, NBC, NPR, PBS, and The Atlantic, have received funding. Gates also supports a number of influential international organizations, including the BBC, The Guardian, The Financial Times, and The Daily Telegraph in the United Kingdom; leading European newspapers such as Le Monde, Der Spiegel, and El Pas in Germany; and major international broadcasters such as Al-Jazeera.

The money allocated to media projects by the Gates Foundation has been divided into many parts and given in descending numerical order, with a link to the appropriate grant on the organization's website.

Awards Directly to Media Outlets:

These contributions total $166,216,526. The funds are mostly used to support causes dear to Bill and Melinda Gates' hearts. The $3.6 million CNN grant, for example, was used to "report on gender equality with a particular focus on least developed countries, producing journalism on the everyday inequalities experienced by women and girls around the world," while the Texas Tribune received millions to "increase public awareness and engagement of education reform issues in Texas." Given that Bill is one of the charter schools’ most fervent supporters, a cynic might interpret this as planting pro-corporate charter school propaganda into the media, disguised as objective news reporting.

The Gates Foundation has also given nearly $63 million to charities closely aligned with big media outlets, including nearly $53 million to BBC Media Action, over $9 million to MTV’s Staying Alive Foundation, and $1 million to The New York Times Neediest Causes Fund. While not specifically funding journalism, donations to the philanthropic arm of a media player should still be noted.

Gates has also continued to fund a large network of investigative journalism centers, totalling slightly over $38 million, with more than half of it going to the International Center for Journalists in Washington, D.C., to extend and improve African media.

These centers include:

In addition to this, the Gates Foundation also plies press and journalism associations with cash, to the tune of at least $12 million. For example, the National Newspaper Publishers Association — a group representing more than 200 outlets — has received $3.2 million.

The list of these organizations includes:

This brings our running total up to $216.4 million.

In addition, the organization contributes funds to actively teach journalists across the world through scholarships, seminars, and workshops. Today, owing to a Gates Foundation grant, it is conceivable to train as a reporter, find work at a Gates-funded outlet, and join a Gates-funded press organization. This is especially true for journalists working in the domains of health, education, and global development, which are the ones where Gates is most involved and where the billionaire's activities and objectives must be scrutinized the most.

Gates Foundation grants pertaining to the instruction of journalists include:

The BMGF also pays for a wide range of specific media campaigns around the world. For example, since 2014 it has donated $5.7 million to the Population Foundation of India in order to create dramas that promote sexual and reproductive health, with the intent to increase family planning methods in South Asia. Meanwhile, it alloted over $3.5 million to a Senegalese organization to develop radio shows and online content that would feature health information. Supporters consider this to be helping critically underfunded media, while opponents might consider it a case of a billionaire using his money to plant his ideas and opinions into the press.

Media projects supported by the Gates Foundation:

Total: $97,315,408

$319.4 million and (a lot) more

These Gates-sponsored media initiatives total $319.4 million when added together. However, this non-exhaustive list has obvious flaws, implying that the genuine amount is definitely far higher. For starters, it excludes sub-grants, which are funds distributed by grantees to media throughout the world. And, while the Gates Foundation promotes an openness about itself, there is very little public information on what happens to the money from each gift, other from a brief, one- or two-sentence summary on the foundation's website. Only donations to press organizations or programs that could be classified as media campaigns based on material on the Gates Foundation's website were tallied, which means that thousands of grants with a media component are missing from this list.

A case in point is the BMGF’s partnership with ViacomCBS, the company that controls CBS NewsMTV, VH1, Nickelodeon, and BET. Media reports at the time noted that the Gates Foundation was paying the entertainment giant to insert information and PSAs into its programming and that Gates had intervened to change storylines in popular shows like ER and Law & Order: SVU.

However, when checking BMGF’s grants database, “Viacom” and “CBS” are nowhere to be found, the likely grant in question (totaling over $6 million) merely describing the project as a “public engagement campaign aimed at improving high school graduation rates and postsecondary completion rates specifically aimed at parents and students,” meaning that it was not counted in the official total. There are surely many more examples like this. “For a tax-privileged charity that so very often trumpets the importance of transparency, it’s remarkable how intensely secretive the Gates Foundation is about its financial flows,” Tim Schwab, one of the few investigative journalists who has scrutinized the tech billionaire, told MintPress.

Also not included are grants aimed at producing articles for academic journals. While these articles are not meant for mass consumption, they regularly form the basis for stories in the mainstream press and help shape narratives around key issues. The Gates Foundation has given far and wide to academic sources, with at least $13.6 million going toward creating content for the prestigious medical journal The Lancet.

Even money provided to universities for strictly research purposes, of course, inevitably winds up in academic journals and, eventually, in the popular media. Academics are under intense pressure to publish their findings in famous publications; in university departments, "publish or perish" is the slogan. As a result, even little gifts have an impact on our media. These, as well as grants for the publishing of books and the creation of websites, were not included in the total, despite the fact that they are both types of media.

Low profile, long tentacles

In comparison to other tech billionaires, Gates has kept his profile as a media controller relatively low. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’s purchase of The Washington Post for $250 million in 2013 was a very clear and obvious form of media influence, as was eBay founder Pierre Omidyar’s creation of First Look Media, the company that owns The Intercept.

Despite flying more under the radar, Gates and his companies have amassed considerable influence in media. We already rely on Microsoft-owned products for communication (e.g. Skype, Hotmail), social media (LinkedIn), and entertainment (Microsoft XBox). Furthermore, the hardware and software we use to communicate often comes courtesy of the 66-year-old Seattleite. How many people reading this are doing so on a Microsoft Surface or Windows phone and doing so via Windows OS? Not only that, Microsoft owns stakes in media giants such as Comcast and AT&T. And the “MS” in MSNBC stands for Microsoft.

Media Gates keepers

That the Gates Foundation is underwriting a significant chunk of our media ecosystem leads to serious problems with objectivity. “The foundation’s grants to media organizations…raise obvious conflict-of-interest questions: How can reporting be unbiased when a major player holds the purse strings?” wrote Gates’s local Seattle Times in 2011. This was before the newspaper accepted BMGF money to fund its “education lab” section.

Schwab’s research has found that this conflict of interests goes right to the very top: two New York Times columnists had been writing glowingly about the Gates Foundation for years without disclosing that they also work for a group — the Solutions Journalism Network — that, as shown above, has received over $7 million from the tech billionaire’s charity.

Earlier this year, Schwab also declined to co-report on a story about COVAX for The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, suspecting that the money Gates had been pumping into the outlet would make it impossible to accurately report on a subject so close to Gates’s heart. Sure enough, when the article was published last month, it repeated the assertion that Gates had little to do with COVAX’s failure, mirroring the BMGF’s stance and quoting them throughout. Only at the very end of the more than 5,000-word story did it reveal that the organization it was defending was paying the wages of its staff.

“I don’t believe Gates told The Bureau of Investigative Journalism what to write. I think the bureau implicitly, if subconsciously, knew they had to find a way to tell this story that didn’t target their funder. The biasing effects of financial conflicts are complex but very real and reliable,” Schwab said, describing it as “a case study in the perils of Gates-funded journalism.”

MintPress also contacted the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for comment, but it did not respond.

Gates, who amassed his fortune by building a monopoly and zealously guarding his intellectual property, bears significant blame for the failure of the coronavirus vaccine rollout across the world. Quite aside from the COVAX fiasco, he pressured Oxford University not to make its publicly-funded vaccine open-source and available to all for free, but instead to partner with private corporation AstraZeneca, a decision that meant that those who could not pay were blocked from using it. That Gates has made over 100 donations to the university, totaling hundreds of millions of dollars, likely played some role in the decision. To this day, fewer than 5% of people in low-income countries have received even one dose of COVID vaccine. The death toll from this is immense.

Unfortunately, many of these legitimate criticisms of Gates and his organization are overshadowed by crazy and unfounded conspiracy theories about things like implanting microchips in vaccinations to control the population. This has resulted in real criticisms of the Microsoft co-founder being demonetized and algorithmically suppressed, thereby discouraging outlets from covering the matter because they will most likely lose money if they do. The lack of investigation of the world's second-wealthiest person, in turn, fosters irrational suspicions.

Gates certainly deserves it. Quite apart from his deep and potentially decades-long ties to the infamous Jeffrey Epstein, his attempts to radically change African society, and his investment in controversial chemical giant Monsanto, he is perhaps the key driver behind the American charter school movement — an attempt to essentially privatize the U.S. education system. Charter schools are deeply unpopular with teachers’ unions, which see the movement as an attempt to lessen their autonomy and reduce public oversight into how and what children are taught.

All the way to the bank

In most coverage, Gates’s donations are broadly presented as altruistic gestures. Yet many have pointed to the inherent flaws with this model, noting that allowing billionaires to decide what they do with their money allows them to set the public agenda, giving them enormous power over society. “Philanthropy can and is being used deliberately to divert attention away from different forms of economic exploitation that underpin global inequality today,” said Linsey McGoey, Professor of Sociology at the University of Essex, U.K., and author of No Such Thing as a Free Gift: The Gates Foundation and the Price of Philanthropy. 

She adds: “The new ‘philanthrocapitalism’ threatens democracy by increasing the power of the corporate sector at the expense of the public sector organizations, which increasingly face budget squeezes, in part by excessively remunerating for-profit organizations to deliver public services that could be delivered more cheaply without private sector involvement.”

"Charity is a chilly grey loveless creature," as former British Prime Minister Clement Attlee put it. If a wealthy someone want to assist the needy, he should cheerfully pay his taxes rather than throw out money on the spur of the moment."

None of this implies that the institutions that get Gates' money — whether media or else — are inherently corrupt, nor that the Gates Foundation is ineffective. However, it creates a clear conflict of interest since the very institutions we rely on to keep one of the world's wealthiest and most powerful individuals responsible are covertly supported by him. The corporate media has largely ignored this conflict of interest, while Gates, the ostensibly selfless philanthropist, keeps growing richer and richer, laughing all the way to the bank.

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