National Geographic Enters Partnership Agreement

There is a great deal of consternation surrounding the announcement that 21st Century Fox has invested $725 in the National Geographic Society and take a 73% ownership of a new media company called National Geographic Partners. The remaining 27% of ownership will remain with the National Geographic Society.

There are many questions here, some of which are difficult to parse out. My initial – and flawed – reading of one segment of the Washington Post’s story lead me to believe that the magazine would remain under the control of the Society.

The monthly magazine, with its famous yellow-bordered cover, has been owned since its inception by the National Geographic Society of Washington, the educational and scientific organization based in Washington that has been a philanthropic organization from its beginning.

Reading deeper, Paul Farhi states:

The new partnership will own the channels, the magazine and other National Geographic Society media assets, such as a book and map publishing division, a catalog operation and a travel agency.

And this is mirrored by the piece on the National Geographic web site:

National Geographic Partners will include National Geographic’s domestic and international channels, National Geographic magazine, National Geographic Kids and Little Kids magazines, travel media, National Geographic Studios, National Geographic Maps, National Geographic Books and Home Entertainment, travel expeditions, licensing and merchandising, eCommerce, National Geographic Creative and location-based entertainment, as well as related digital and social media platforms.

Why do I point out my own error? Part of it is that I had hoped the Society would retain control of the yellow-bordered magazine, to keep it free from outside influences and retain its independence. My desire for that altered the way I processed the information I had at hand – a dangerous thing for a journalist.

Part of it is, with a somewhat greater understanding of the deal, I do see some hope when it comes to independence (from the Post):

The Society will remain a non-profit, separately governed from National Geographic Partners. The partnership will be governed by a board comprised of an equal number of representatives from Fox and National Geographic.

Time will tell what happens.

Mark E. Johnson

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