‘Rise of the Drones’ Is Mostly a PBS Infomercial for the Military Defense Industry

Screenshot from preview of Nova’s “Rise of the Drones”

The widely-acclaimed PBS program, NOVA, premiered a documentary on unmanned aerial vehicles or drones. The documentary, “Rise of the Drones,” was produced to explore how the technology is revolutionizing warfare and creating the next generation of cutting-edge surveillance. It was created to provide a glimpse at how the technology has advanced and how innovations might progress in the future.

Before the documentary began, PBS noted the program had received funding from the David H. Koch Foundation for Science. It also received “additional funding” from Lockheed Martin, which on its face looks like a violation of PBS’ underwriting guidelines.

Lockheed Martin is one of the nation’s biggest military defense contractors and is developing drones (in secret). The test PBS is supposed to apply to programs is three-fold and as follows:

  • Editorial Control Test: Has the underwriter exercised editorial control? Could it?
  • Perception Test: Might the public perceive that the underwriter has exercised editorial control?
  • Commercialism Test: Might the public conclude the program is on PBS principally because it promotes the underwriter’s products, services or other business interests?

Having Lockheed Martin provide any amount of money to a program that touts the amazing potential of innovations in drone technology appears to be a violation of both the “perception” and “commercialism” tests. Is it a violation?

In 2008, Lockheed Martin teamed up with Karem Aircraft Incorporated to develop “Karem Aircraft’s Optimum Speed Tilt-Rotor (OSTR) design. It was “one of three approaches selected by the Department of Defense (DoD) Joint Heavy Lift program office to receive a Concept Design and Analysis extension contract.” Karem Aircraft Incorporated was founded by Abe Karem. He appears in the documentary and, as The Economist has described him, he is the man who “created the robotic plane that transformed the way modern warfare is waged—and continues to pioneer other airborne innovations.” Karem talks about the advancement and benefits of drone technology. This is a clear conflict of interest.

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The documentary opens with a narrator mentioning there are more than 2,300 manned fighter planes. Viewers are told, “Pilots have long been our heroes,” especially pilots who can make quick decisions when things happen very quickly. It then asks whether the world is approaching a time when movies like The Terminator become reality or a “time when machines can fly, think and even kill on their own”? [cont’d.]

‘Rise of the Drones’ Is Mostly a PBS Infomercial for the Military Defense Industry

Screen shot from preview of Nova’s “Rise of the Drones”

The widely-acclaimed PBS program, NOVA, premiered a documentary on unmanned aerial vehicles or drones. The documentary, “Rise of the Drones,” was produced to explore how the technology is revolutionizing warfare and creating the next generation of cutting-edge surveillance. It was created to provide a glimpse at how the technology has advanced and how innovations might progress in the future.

Before the documentary began, PBS noted the program had received funding from the David H. Koch Foundation for Science. It also received “additional funding” from Lockheed Martin, which on its face looks like a violation of PBS’ underwriting guidelines.

Lockheed Martin is one of the nation’s biggest military defense contractors and is developing drones (in secret). The test PBS is supposed to apply to programs is three-fold and as follows:

  • Editorial Control Test: Has the underwriter exercised editorial control? Could it?
  • Perception Test: Might the public perceive that the underwriter has exercised editorial control?
  • Commercialism Test: Might the public conclude the program is on PBS principally because it promotes the underwriter’s products, services or other business interests?

Having Lockheed Martin provide any amount of money to a program that touts the amazing potential of innovations in drone technology appears to be a violation of both the “perception” and “commercialism” tests. Is it a violation?

In 2008, Lockheed Martin teamed up with Karem Aircraft Incorporated to develop “Karem Aircraft’s Optimum Speed Tilt-Rotor (OSTR) design. It was “one of three approaches selected by the Department of Defense (DoD) Joint Heavy Lift program office to receive a Concept Design and Analysis extension contract.” Karem Aircraft Incorporated was founded by Abe Karem. He appears in the documentary and, as The Economist has described him, he is the man who “created the robotic plane that transformed the way modern warfare is waged—and continues to pioneer other airborne innovations.” Karem talks about the advancement and benefits of drone technology. This is a clear conflict of interest.

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The documentary opens with a narrator mentioning there are more than 2,300 manned fighter planes. Viewers are told, “Pilots have long been our heroes,” especially pilots who can make quick decisions when things happen very quickly. It then asks whether the world is approaching a time when movies like The Terminator become reality or a “time when machines can fly, think and even kill on their own”? (more…)