July 30, 2004

What Liberal Media?

Scrolling through the stories on Google covering John Kerry's acceptance speech, I was surprised to see the following NPR story:

GOP Sees Flaws in Kerry Campaign, Convention

NPR's Robert Siegel talks with Matthew Dowd, chief strategist of the Bush-Cheney 2004 campaign, for the Republican reaction to this week's events and messages put forth at the Democratic National Convention.

Have you also noticed how many more conservative voices are on NPR? Just yesterday, Juan Williams aired Ann Coulter's disgusting smear about Max Cleland during Morning Edition. Is NPR now using Drudge and Coulter for their news sources?

And what about the fact that CPB (the Corporation of Public Broadcasting) can fund programs showcasing Paul Gigot and Tucker Carlson, while deciding that Bill Moyer's NOW program is too controversial to fund?

According to Ken Auletta's report in the June New Yorker, Gingrich and the right wing no longer want to defund Public Broadcasting. Why would you do that when you can control what gets on the airwaves and have a "public broadcasting" version of FOX?

Moyers turns seventy this June. Three years ago, he announced plans to leave PBS in 2001. But he decided to stay on after the attacks of September 11th. He put off announcing his departure when he was under assault in the fall of 2003, but on the eve of the February congressional hearing on public broadcasting he decided to announce that he would leave after the November election, to write a book about L.B.J. His impending departure strengthened an impression that the C.P.B. was in the ascendancy--an impression that was reinforced on March 1st, when the C.P.B. announced a major programming initiative, "America at a Crossroads." Under it, up to twenty million dollars will be invested in programs dealing with post-9/11 themes. In addition, Michael Pack said he is hoping to air a culture series hosted by the conservative critic Michael Medved, with a rotating liberal co-host. "This is the first time in my thirty-two years in public broadcasting that C.P.B. has ordered up programs for ideological instead of journalistic reasons," Moyers wrote to me in an e-mail. "So now we have C.P.B. funding two right-wingers, Gigot at the W.S.J. and Carlson at CNN--God bless them both!--who already own big megaphones in commercial media. How does that make public television different?"

Pat Mitchell said, "I welcome more public-affairs programming on the air," and added, "I'd love to have the twenty million dollars!" Among other choices, she would like to continue funding the Moyers program after he leaves. (David Brancaccio, the co-host of "Now," will be hosting the program, which will be reduced from an hour to thirty minutes.) "PBS will have to make that choice," Michael Pack said, confirming that while the C.P.B. supports the Carlson and Gigot programs, there won't be any financial support for "Now."

Perhaps the time has come for a completely separate liberal network that counters the VRWC as was suggested in Matt Bai's article in the New York Times last Sunday. Yet, the fact that we can't find a way to provide honest and intelligent news on TV for the ordinary American who is just checking in during the evening news hour is worrying. How can a country maintain a democracy without a well-informed public that at least agrees about what the basic facts are, even if they disagree about the policies for addressing the facts.

Posted by Mary at July 30, 2004 04:47 PM | Media | Technorati links |

I was very surprised as well - today's The Connection with Dick Gordon has some very conservative types on as well. I'm hoping they will do a better job of debunking what these people said throughout the next month.

Posted by: B.K. DeLong at July 30, 2004 05:44 PM

Our local Public Broadcasting channel herein Seattle, KCTS, had a host and two talking heads, one of which was freakin' DAVID BROOKS! I mean, come on, this guy is a well-known right winger, yet there he was dishing it out after each dem's speech. Pretty unbelievable.

Has the right wing ideology "won" the culture war? No, but we're giving up ground.

Posted by: Bruce Cordell at July 30, 2004 06:32 PM

Heaven just called, Joan Crock wants her money back.

Posted by: attaturk at July 30, 2004 07:20 PM

KCTS is a sad, sad joke. They have no guts - they can't seem to show anything remotely controversial before 10 PM, and much of it not until after Midnight - for fear of upsetting, more likely, their fanbase of tepid British soaps and comedies than of local conservatives within greater Seattle.

My opinion is, give PBS a couple of billion, then spin them off into an independent association, much like, say, the Federal Reserve.

But then my opinion is that the web is where the bulwark being able to adequately inform the public will come from in the future. If any news organization can show it can make a profit, hoever small, via the web, all the major TV networks will rush to spin off and/or dump their news operations onto the web and off of television, which they only see as a means to make money, not a means to inform the public.

Posted by: palamedes at July 30, 2004 08:48 PM

With cable TV saturation being what it is PBS's usefulness may be coming to an end. The programs we used to depend on PBS for can now be found on The Discovery Channel, The History Channel etc. If the news content is going to be slated to the right then PBS will have no place in my viewing universe. NPR will go the same way as satellite radio gains popularity and independent programming becomes available. My guess is the new audience they are apparently so eager to attract will not be as open with their checkbooks as those of us they are going to lose.

Posted by: Ron In Portland at July 31, 2004 12:12 AM

I agree with all the above commetns but, just to feel better: E-mail morningedition@NPR.org and blast them about the Ann Coulter story. I find the local stations such as our KUOW. As for Coulter, she makes one ashamed to be human.

Posted by: Ariel at July 31, 2004 12:02 PM

Actually, all we have to do is join our local public TV station and vote in a new board of directors. Choosing the Board of Directors is one of the benefits of membership. Then we could simply refuse to broadcast all these right wing programs, replace Jim Lehrer with Robert Parry and anything else we thought necessary.

Posted by: Alice Marshall at August 1, 2004 07:40 AM

I, too, have noticed a real change in NPR coverage. I wonder if it has something to do with the large gift by the Joan Kroc estate. I was very pleased when I first learned of the gift, but the coverage has tilted so much to the right, that I wonder now if it was a Trojan Horse.

Posted by: Razzled at August 3, 2004 06:55 PM