The Progress Report
by David Sirota, Christy Harvey, Judd Legum and Jonathan Baskin www.americanprogress.org Conservatives Want The Airwaves
Conservatives are trying to take over the government-funded airwaves. According to a piece in this week's The New Yorker titled "Big Bird Flies Right," the Bush White House has orchestrated a coordinated campaign to push the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) to the right. The administration has used the power of the purse to nudge PBS and NPR to a more conservative agenda, using funding grants from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting as leverage. And it seems to be working. Conservative CNN Crossfire host Tucker Carlson and WSJ editorial page editor Paul Gigot will both be getting their own shows in the upcoming year. Long-time PBS host Bill Moyers criticized the conservative push, saying, "This is the first time in my thirty-two years in public broadcasting that CBP has ordered up programs for ideological instead of journalistic reasons." For more on media bias, read Eric Alterman's latest column exploding the myth of a liberal media. A conservative bias may be leaking into radio, as well. A report by Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) shows among partisan sources interviewed on or reporting for NPR, "Republicans outnumbered Democrats by more than 3 to 2 (61 percent to 38 percent)." In addition, during the month surveyed, "individual Republicans were NPR's most popular sources overall, taking the top seven spots in frequency of appearance."
THE LIMBAUGH DOUBLE STANDARD: Every day, right-wing talk show host Rush Limbaugh's show is broadcast for an hour to the troops in Iraq over taxpayer-funded Armed Forces Radio. The station does not carry a corresponding liberal point of view to counter Limbaugh's uber-conservative commentary. Said Sen. Tom Harkin: "This sends all the wrong signals to the troops...Rush Limbaugh has a point of view. I mean, a dedicated, right wing point of view. That's fine. That's fine. But you should balance it on the other side also. Especially when it's being funded by other people's money." The Defense Department claims it's Limbaugh's ratings, not his political point of view, which earned him a slot on AFR. However, Howard Stern, who also has millions of fans nationwide, is not carried on AFR. Asked why, the Defense Department claimed it's due to the content of Stern's show. Perhaps they weren't listening the day Limbaugh compared the abuse at Abu Ghraib to a fraternity prank, saying it was nothing more than soldiers letting off a little steam. MediaMatters has sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, asking him to correct this double standard and remove Rush Limbaugh from Armed Forces Radio.
CONSERVATIVE PUNDITS RUSH TO MISINTERPRET PEW SURVEY: A new Pew survey on the state of news media has found that "Solid majorities of national print and TV journalists, as well as Internet journalists, say the media has not been critical enough in its coverage of the administration." Strangely enough, conservative pundits largely disregarded this conclusion in their rush to confirm the report as evidence of a media bias against President Bush. On his 5/24/04 broadcast, Bill O'Reilly said "There's no question President Bush will not get a fair shake from most of the media. A new Pew Research Study shows…the networks, as well as most major urban newspapers, rarely treat the president fairly." And Sean Hannity referred to the report on Tuesday as "evidence of media bias. No. 1." Actually, Hannity was right—the Pew report did show evidence of media bias, but that bias was in favor of the Bush administration.
SPEAKING OF FAIR AND BALANCED: O'Reilly and Hannity might also have missed this fun fact from the survey: "Most national and local journalists do not believe any national news organization is 'especially liberal' in its news coverage…By contrast, solid majorities of both national and local journalists say there is an organization that they think is especially conservative—and for most the organization that comes to mind is Fox News Channel."
IF THIS IS LIBERAL…: Among the minority of journalists who could think of an "especially liberal" news outlet, "the New York Times was mentioned most frequently." But the NYT last week issued a statement admitting "a number of instances of coverage that was not as rigorous as it should have been" in its reporting of the Bush administration's weapons of mass destruction claims leading up to the war in Iraq. According to Editor & Publisher Magazine, the NYT did not go far enough in its contrition for allowing "the line to become indistinct between the Bush Administration's claims and the newspaper's own reporting." Times ombudsman Daniel Okrent admitted the NYT's reporting "in the months leading up to the invasion of Iraq was credulous; much of it was inappropriately italicized by lavish front-page display and heavy-breathing headlines; and several fine articles by David Johnston, James Risen and others that provided perspective or challenged information in the faulty stories were played as quietly as a lullaby."http://www.americanprogress.org/site/pp.asp?c=biJRJ8OVF&b=6228