FAIR Weather

Jack Hannold sent along this post from the FAIR website (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting), entitled interestingly enough “Taking the Public Out of Public TV” (“PBS fare differs little from commercial TV”), and it bears mentioning because of its peripheral import to our subject. As Jack notes, this is part and parcel of a “larger issue — which is, of course, the subversion of the entire concept of public broadcasting as envisioned in the 1967 legislation that set up the CPB.” The FAIR website begins:

[P]ublic television is failing to live up to its mission to provide an alternative to commercial television, to give voice to those “who would otherwise go unheard” and help viewers to “see America whole, in all its diversity,” in the words of public TV’s founding document.

Which sounds a whole lot like the problem with public radio — just take out “television” and substitute in “radio” and it too is an accurate assessment. And the similarities run far deeper than just the homogenization of music heard on public radio:

In a special November issue of studies and analyses of PBS’s major public affairs shows, FAIR’s magazine Extra! shows that “public television” features guestlists strongly dominated by white, male and elite sources, who are far more likely to represent corporations and war makers than environmentalists or peace advocates. And both funding and ownership of these shows is increasingly corporate, further eroding the distinction between “public” and corporate television. There is precious little “public” left in “public television.”

Sound familiar, radio fans? FAIR analyzed the PBS NewsHour and came up with these figures:

  • The NewsHour’s guestlist was 80 percent male and 82 percent white, with a pronounced tilt toward elites who rarely “go unheard,” like current and former government and military officials, corporate representatives and journalists (74 percent). Since 2006, appearances by women of color actually decreased by a third, to only 4 percent of U.S. sources.
  • Women and people of color were far more likely to appear as “people on the street” providing brief, often reactive soundbites, than in more authoritative roles in live interviews.
  • Viewers were five times as likely to see guests representing corporations (10 percent v. 2 percent) than representatives of public interest groups who might counterweigh such moneyed interests—labor, consumer and environmental organizations.
  • While Democratic guests outnumbered Republican guests nearly 2-to-1 in overall sources, Republicans dominated by more than 3-to-2 in the program’s longer format, live segments. (FAIR’s 2006 NewsHour study, which examined a period when Republicans controlled the White House and Congress, showed Republican guests outnumbering Democrats in both categories: 2-to-1 among all sources, 3-to-2 in the longer live interviews.)
  • On segments about the BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the most frequent story of the study period, viewers were four times as likely to see representatives hailing from the oil industry (13 percent of guests) as representatives of environmental concerns (3 percent).
  • On segments focusing on the Afghan War, though polls show consistent majorities of Americans have opposed the war for more than a year, not a single NewsHour guest represented an antiwar group or expressed antiwar views. Similarly, no representative of a human rights or humanitarian organization appeared on the NewsHour during the study period.

The last point, you may recall is a major criticism of NPR on Matthew Murrey’s blog NPR Check, here, and one wonders if the other points would hold true for public radio as well. Click on the “NPR” link on the FAIR site and a whole list of stories turn up, not the least of which was the treatment of the passing of Howard Zinn last January, here and here. We’ve added the link to FAIR on the right.


One Response

  1. I have to admit that the move to privatise public broadcasting is incredibly frightening, but it has been going on pretty much since Public Broadcasting was founded 40 years ago. The Right knows that controlling the media allows for people to be propagandised and brainwashed.

    I wish people would wake up.

    Especially the leeches who aren’t members and supporters of Public Broadcasting, yet enjoy the programmes from that service.

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