Sunday, June 26, 2005

Leftist Bias at the Public Broadcasting Service

From the Office of Homeland Security: The Media Research Center details the lobbying activities used by PBS in the face of a move in Congress to cut Federal taxpayer funding for the organization.

Much of the campaign of PBS is just the standard tactics used by government bureaucrats faced with having to live with less money than they would like to have — not much different from the Racine School Board, in fact.

But one revealing passage in the article speaks volumes about the political bias surrounding PBS:
In 1999, WETA was exposed as helping a number of Democratic or liberal political causes. As the July 28, 1999 CyberAlert recounted:

Washington’s WETA-TV, a major provider of programming to the PBS system, has conceded its list exchanges for fundraising tilted heavily toward liberal lists.

In a front page story in the July 27 Fairfax Journal, a Virginia suburban daily, reporter Stephen Henn wrote: “The Virginia Democratic Party, Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., and Mary Sue Terry, former Virginia Attorney General and 1993 Democratic gubernatorial candidate, swapped fundraising lists with the region’s largest public television broadcaster, Arlington-based WETA, a station official conceded yesterday.

“WETA, which carries Sesame Street, Nova and the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer among other programs on channel 26, began swapping its contributors list with partisan groups more than a decade ago and sold donor lists to a third-party broker working for Mikulski’s Senate campaign as recently as last year....”

Later, Henn added that WETA spokeswoman Mary “Stewart said most of the partisan groups that traded with WETA were Democratic, but she noted several Republican organizations also swapped with the station.”

The statement by the WETA spokeswoman that “several Republican organizations also swapped” their mailing lists with the station turned out to be false, according to an investigation conducted by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

The September 13, 1999 CyberAlert included details of the probe’s finding: Contrary to earlier claims by PBS officials, PBS stations only rented or bought lists from Democratic groups for direct mail fundraising, but you wouldn’t know that from the Washington Post story which ignored that conclusion nor would you have learned that from ABC’s World News Tonight which had relayed PBS’s bi-partisan spin back in July.

Washington Times reporter Barbara Saffir opened a September 10 front page story on Friday:

An audit that shows WETA and 52 other federally funded TV stations swapped their donor lists exclusively with Democratic organizations is inflaming a debate over federal funding for public broadcasting.

A six-week long audit by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s inspector general found that:

-- “Virtually all of the exchange or rental transactions of station membership/donor names were to apparently Democratic organizations.”

-- Public broadcasting officials incorrectly told Congress that stations also rented from several Republican groups but the “organizations” typically turned out to be names of donor lists dubbed by the list brokers who compiled them.
Thus it’s no accident that conservatives say that PBS has a liberal bias, and liberals say it’s unbiased. Liberals see their own worldview reflected in the taxpayer supported network.

Now one might suppose that a government owned and financed broadcasting network would have a pro-government bias. But in fact, in democraties, such organizations have almost complete autonomy. Not only do they not have to worry about what government figures think about them (they can expect liberal partisans and a small but very affluent audience to protect them), they don’t have to worry about commercial pressures either.

So what happens — with the CBC and the BBC just as at PBS — is that the liberal worldview and biases of reporters get free play.

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