Is PBS biased

US public broadcasting under pressure

The Republican-dominated Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) calls for public radio and television broadcasters to provide “more objective and balanced information”. Observers interpret the measure as a political maneuver that threatens the independence of public broadcasting, but also the freedom of the press.

snu. Every television viewer in the US knows CNN and the national commercial networks ABC, NBC and CBS. These networks, which dominate the American television market, are managed by large corporations. The numerous public radio stations are less well known. These non-commercial media are funded from various sources. They receive $ 600 million in taxpayers' money, which is distributed annually to the individual broadcasters by the umbrella organization Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB). Overall, the US government pays one sixth of the cost of public broadcasting, with patrons and members contributing the remainder. Government support for these media was made possible by the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967. Public broadcasters achieve a market share of no more than two percent in the USA, but the viewing of individual programs and stations is very high. The website of the higher-level network Public Broadcasting System (www.pbs.org) is very popular due to its wide range of information.

Witch hunt against liberals?

Since the re-election of President Bush, public broadcasting has made repeated political headlines. The Internet magazine Salon.com wrote that there was a campaign against PBS and the radio network NPR (National Public Radio) in progress. In order to free public broadcasting from its «liberal imbalance», the CPB had started a witch hunt. Slate.com said that the ghost of former President Nixon could be heard. He screeched with pleasure on his cloud in heaven because his long-cherished presidential wish to free public broadcasting from the clutches of the left is now finally coming true. Slate.com was reminiscent of Vietnam and Watergate and thus the power struggle between Nixon and the then new public television. To prevent this from broadcasting anti-war and anti-government programs, Nixon had only appointed conservative Republican board members to the supervision. With partial success, they made sure that the anti-Vietnam mood in the population was not further fueled by radio reports.

Numerous incidents in recent months have shown that the ideological struggle is in full swing again. The Washington Post recently named the problem that many consider the cause of the newly inflamed dispute between the CPB and PBS by name: Bush's nominations put the board of directors firmly in the hands of conservative Republicans who worked hard, PBS impose a conservative agenda.

Dismissal of the boss

A few weeks ago, the decision of the CPB Board of Directors caused a sensation to dismiss the long-term CPB employee, Kathleen Cox, who was only elected president last year, without notice. Cox's career failed because of a children's film she sponsored, in which the hare Buster visits two befriended lesbian couples. Neither sex nor violence, but tolerance towards lesbian women was Cox's undoing.

Cox's fate would very likely have overtaken Lyndon B. Johnson's journalist and former spokesman Bill Moyers. In December 2004, Moyers voluntarily resigned from his PBS show entitled "Now with Bill Moyers". He was in the line of fire of the newly elected Republican CPB chairman, Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, for criticizing Condoleezza Rice several times and calling conservative talk radio shows "political pornography." Moyers' program lacks the balance that the law prescribes for public broadcasting, said Tomlinson, who had Moyers monitored by an appraiser for months without the knowledge of PBS.

Looking for bias

In an interview with the New York Times, Kathleen Cox's successor, Ken Ferree, emphasized that the latest measures taken by his corporation were not primarily politically motivated. The aim of the public broadcasters must be to win over a demographically broader audience. This is the only way to continue to mobilize public funds for NPR and PBS. The networks have a left-wing liberal odor that needs to be removed. However, a recent survey of three thousand NPR listeners found that only two percent of respondents found the NPR reports to be one-sided or biased. The listeners said that precisely because NPR offers a wide range of reports, they have chosen this network.

CPB still wants to start an investigation into the bias of the public stations. With the appointment of two ombudspersons, who will henceforth rummage through the bowels of all NPR and PBS stations for so-called one-sided ideas, CPB is breaking new ground. Biased reporting needs to be debunked now, Tomlinson said. The Chairman failed to explain how the ombudspersons, both of whom belong to the Republican Party, define bias and bias. The well-known news program from PBS, "News Hour with Jim Lehrer," said Ferree, is also on the test bench. The new managing director compared Lehrer's linguistic eloquence with Shakespeare's expressiveness, but regretted not being able to muster the energy for such complex programs after a long day at work. He often prefers the entertaining stories of the gossip reporters in People Magazine in the evening, Ferree said in an interview with the New York Times.

"A coup from the right"

As the administrator of Washington's tax money, CPB has a strong trump card in hand over the stations. Broadcasters that disregard the newly defined rules in the future would have to expect federal contributions to be cut, said a board member of the media regulator, the Federal Communication Commission. In an interview with the Washington Post, the long-time board member, who did not want his name published, said that the CPB was not on a campaign in the service of the truth. Rather, it is a carefully orchestrated attack by the conservatives in progress: “CPB is engaged in a systematic effort not just to sanitize the truth, but to impose a right-wing agenda on PBS. It's almost like a right-wing coup. "

Two Democratic Congressmen from Washington, David Obey and John Dingell, recently announced that they would set up a commission of inquiry. The question is whether CPB's interference in the internal affairs of the PBS and NPR does not violate the provisions of the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967. This prohibits the state from interfering in the programming of public stations. Politically motivated employment is also expressly forbidden because it compromises the independence of the broadcasters and the freedom of the press.