If public television's mission is to bring diverse viewpoints to the airwaves, the discussions about the war in Libya on the PBS NewsHour haven't lived up to that standard. Over the past two weeks, the NewsHour has featured an array of current and former military and government officials in its discussion segments--leaving little room for antiwar voices, U.S. foreign policy critics and legal experts. -On March 18, the NewsHour interviewed the Obama administration's UN Ambassador Susan Rice. -On March 21, anchor Jim Lehrer decided to get "perspective on the Mideast turmoil from two former U.S. national security advisers"--Carter's Zbigniew Brzezinski [...]
Narrow war debate on PBS NewsHour
It is as predictable as can be: Invigorated Republican politicians announce their intention to kill public broadcasting, which they claim is a bastion of liberal bias. Defenders of NPR and PBS step in to defend the system. The Republicans, who were unlikely to win a vote on their plan, retreat for the moment. Public broadcasting is "saved." (See Slate, 2/10/11.) The public broadcasting fight of 2011 is playing out the same way. A more productive discussion of public broadcasting is sorely needed--one that is not reduced to "save it" or "kill it." The purpose of public broadcasting is clear: to [...]
A FAIR study of PBS’s flagship news show
A new FAIR study of the PBS NewsHour finds that public television’s flagship news program continues to feature sources drawn largely from a narrow range of elite white male experts. The study, the third FAIR has conducted of the NewsHour since 1990, documents a pattern of failure by the PBS news show to fulfill the mission of public television to provide a broader, more inclusive alternative to commercial news programs. The 1967 Carnegie Commission Report on public television, which spawned 1967’s Public Broadcasting Act and gave birth to PBS, suggested that public television “should be a forum for debate and [...]
Download MP3 This week on CounterSpin: What's public about public TV? That's the question posed by new research by FAIR, the group that brings you this show. PBS was founded to serve as a real alternative to commercial television, to be the place where you could find perspectives and views that the corporations that pay for commercial TV wouldn’t want to support. The network may have some very good programming still, but how well is it serving the goals with which it was charged? FAIR's expose looks at news and public affairs programming, in the wake of the disappearance from [...]
Need to Know fails to live up to PBS mission
It's official: Need to Know has failed to pursue the kind of hard-hitting reporting, full of diverse perspectives, that was regularly supplied by the shows it replaced, Now and the Bill Moyers Journal. Now Friday night on PBS looks a lot like the rest of public television's prominent news and public affairs shows--which, as FAIR's new studies have documented, means a pronounced tilt towards white male sources and a miniscule number of activists or public interest advocates. That's a far cry from the intended mission of public broadcasting--to "provide a voice for groups in the community that may otherwise be [...]
Says funding gives series a 'credibility problem'
In response to hundreds of letters from FAIR activists, PBS ombud Michael Getler (7/16/10) agreed with FAIR's criticism (Action Alert, 7/12/10) of the 3-hour PBS documentary Turmoil and Triumph, a tribute to former Reagan-era Secretary of State George Shultz funded in part by institutions and individuals with close ties to Shultz. Getler found Turmoil to be "over-the-top, in my view, with praise, but with relatively little critical appraisal of some of the more controversial actions of Shultz's tenure." He wrote: This series, for me, as a viewer and an ombudsman, created at least the appearance of a conflict of interest; [...]
Do PBS’s conflict of interest rules apply?
Many PBS stations around the country will begin airing a three-part, three-hour documentary tonight (7/12/10) about Reagan-era Secretary of State George Shultz. According to the New York Times (7/12/10), the unusually lengthy, completely uncritical tribute is partially sponsored by corporations linked to Shultz's corporate career. The special, Turmoil and Triumph, was funded by the Stephen Bechtel Fund and Charles Schwab. Shultz was a board member at both companies, and was president of the Bechtel Corporation from 1975 to 1982. According to reviews, the documentary takes an overwhelmingly positive, even gushing stance. The Times' Alessandra Stanley points out, "There is no [...]
Moyers 'not exactly replaceable'--so here's Meacham instead
PBS ombud Michael Getler (3/18/10) responded to a FAIR Action Alert (3/10/10) that criticized PBS's choice of Jon Meacham as co-host of the PBS public affairs show that will fill the slot left vacant by Now and Bill Moyers Journal. Wrote Getler: During the past week, my office has received about 3,000 e-mails from people, most of whom seemed to be subscribers to FAIR--the media watchdog group that describes itself as "progressive" and stands for "Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting"--and were spurred on by an online "action alert" on March 10. Getler reiterated his concern that Now and Bill Moyers [...]