Antiwar Public Unrepresented on Public TV

In FAIR’s recent study of the PBS NewsHour, we found that discussions of the Afghan War were incredibly narrow–no opponents ofa war that isbroadly unpopular among the American public were allowed to make their case.

Last night’s NewsHour (12/16/10) offered a chance to see that narrow sourcing yet again. The showfeatured areported segment on the administration’s much-anticipatedreview of the progress (or lack thereof) in Afghanistan.The NewsHour quoted Barack Obama, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. A wide range of views from inside the administration.

For the debate segment, anchor Jim Lehrer presented “two views of the review.” The first guest was retired Gen. Jack Keane, a well-known proponent of the Iraq surge. The other guest was Andrew Wilder of the U.S. Institute for Peace. He saw “somewhat modest tactical and operational gains” in the war, and commented favorably on U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan. He remained concerned that the Afghan and Pakistani governments were not performing well.

Keane said pretty much the same, though he sounded more certain: “It’s unmistakable that the momentum is beginning to switch to our favor.” Both agreed that the key to the war is somehow pressuring Pakistan. These are not conclusions that are all that surprising, and would hardly conflict with what you would hear from U.S. officials.

Can’t public television offer a wider view? Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) wrote a strong piece critical of the administration’s war review, for starters. Independent experts and critics of the war are not exactly hard to come by. They seem to have a hard time being heard on public TV’s flagship newscast.

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.