May 1 1995


Over Newt’s Dead Body

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting will get no more money from the federal government, Newt Gingrich declared in February (Washington Post,2/17/95). “They still don’t realize that the appropriation is gone, that the game is over,” the House speaker told fellow Republicans. “The power of the speaker is the power of recognition, and I will not recognize any proposal that will appropriate money for the CPB.” Did Gingrich’s resolve have anything to do with the fact that Gingrich’s close friend, Vin Weber, had just been fired as a lobbyist for CPB? “He wasn’t fired because it looked bad to hire a lobbyist,” Gingrich groused. “He was fired because he strongly advised them to explore their private-sector options.”

Ignorance Is Strength

“I don’t understand why they call it public broadcasting. As far as I’m concerned, there’s nothing public about it; it’s an elitist enterprise. Rush Limbaugh is public broadcasting.” Newt Gingrich (Washington Post, 2/17/95)

Them, Not Us

People in Japan won’t acknowledge atrocities their country committed during World War II, Newsweek complained (3/27/95): “They prefer to focus on what they see as the wrong done to them.” That’s not a problem confined to Japan, and Newsweek is a prime example. When the mayor of Nagasaki said that the atomic bombing of Japan was, along with the Holocaust, one of the two greatest crimes against humanity in the 20th Century,” the magazine accused him of “ignoring the fact that the Jews did nothing to deserve what happened to them.” What exactly did the hundreds of thousands of civilians killed by the bombs, many of them children, do to deserve incineration? That’s not a question Newsweek wants to focus on.

Good MacNeil, Bad MacNeil

The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour bills itself as the news show that provides sophisticated, in-depth discussions of political events. So how come, in discussing Turkish attacks on Kurdish rebels in Iraq (3/20/95), Robert MacNeil was dividing the Kurdish population into “good Kurds” and “bad Kurds”? As in: “The Kurdish Democratic Party, who are a part, I gather, of the good Kurds, said today…” What’s next? A probing discussion of the peace talks between Israel and the “good Arabs”? Or an analysis of Warren Christopher’s negotiations with the “bad Koreans”?

Koppel Off the Wagon

“We were going to try tonight to avoid the subject of the O.J. Simpson trial,” Ted Koppel said in the introduction to the Feb. 1 Nightline. “It is not, after all, even close to being the most important event in our collective lives.” But like an alcoholic who can’t keep himself from having one more drink, Koppel can’t help himself. In 38 shows between Jan. 23–the night before opening arguments began–and March 15, Nightline held 16 full-length discussions on the Simpson trial, plus two half episodes. That’s 45 percent of all Nightline‘s airtime. And this isn’t the first time Koppel’s gone on a binge: In seven weeks in 1994 (1/24/94-3/16/94), Nightline devoted more than 13 percent of its broadcasts to another earth-shaking topic: the Nancy Kerrigan/Tonya Harding saga (EXTRA!,5-6/94).

Let’s Make a Deal

NBC recently withdrew its complaint that Rupert Murdoch’s Fox TV network is foreign-owned, in violation of U.S. law. (See EXTRA! Update, 12/94) It seems NBC and Fox worked out a deal (itself of dubious legality): In return for taking back its complaint from the FCC, NBC cable stations like CNBC would have access to STAR TV, Murdoch’s satellite system. Will adding CNBC to STAR TV’s programming upset the Chinese government, which only agreed to allow STAR broadcasts after Murdoch dropped the BBC from its schedule (EXTRA! Update, 8/94)? “STAR and NBC officials on Monday said there should be no need to worry that NBC would upset edgy regional governments with Western-style news coverage of politics and social issues,” Reuters reported (2/20/95). “Our channel isn’t a news channel. It’s a business and finance channel,” an NBC executive said. “There won’t be any content that is sensitive in China.” In other words: Why worry about censorship when you’ve got self-censorship?

Your Tax Dollars at Work

When a reporter from the New York Post went out to Sam Donaldson’s New Mexico sheep ranch, to check out what Donaldson has done to receive $97,000 in federal wool and mohair subsidies over the past two years, he was turned away by a ranch hand. “There’s $100,000 of taxpayer money in here,” the Post reporter complained. “Doesn’t that make it everybody’s business?” There are many others in the media besides Donaldson who receive government subsidies: The New York Post, for example, gets cut-rate, taxpayer-subsidized electricity from the state of New York, a deal that saves the paper millions of dollars (Crain’s New York Business, 10/1/90). Any citizens who want to see their tax dollars at work will no doubt be invited to wander the Post‘s offices at 210 South Street in Manhattan.