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The Tally Ho

Sunday, June 06, 2004

On The Media: 5 June 2004

& "How Public is Public Radio"

This week on OTM they had a series of very good stories. They have a story on how conservatives are changing PBS. How Rush Limbaugh is on Armed Forces Radio for an hour each day – and how the administration views NPR programming as a counterbalance to the outrageous things that spews from Rush's mouth (come on, NPR liberal – not to mention that Rush is an entertainer, not a newsman). The interviewer asked why Howard Stern, the second most listened to radio personality, was not offered. I wish I could provide a direct quote, but transcripts do not come out until Tuesday. But in effect the answer was that Stern wasn’t appropriate for Armed Forces Radio. The interviewer then followed that up by questioning the representative about the comments Limbaugh made about the Iraqi prisoner abuses (see Media Matters coverage). Also covered was “Young Republicans” and the Leadership Institute, a segment titled “The Lies and the Lying Leaders Who Tell Them”, and a story on Karl Rove and the media. All these stories can be heard on the OTM webite.

Also covered this week on OTM was how Russia’s most watched public affairs television show was taken off the air by President Putin. The introduction to the story on the website:

First, he recorded an interview with the widow of a Chechnyan separatist leader allegedly murdered by Russian agents. And then, when his bosses yanked the interview under pressure from the Kremlin, he spoke out publicly about the censorship. And all of this on the heels of Vladimir Putin's election victory pledge "to ensure the freedom of the mass media."

Speaking of media, Media Matters is also covering how rightwing pundits like Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity are attacking philanthropist and activist George Soros and his Open Society Institute.

While listening to the OTM interview where NPR programming was considered a counterbalance to Rush Limbaugh on Armed Forces Radio, I thought about the recent study that FAIR released titled “How Public is Public Radio?” For years many conservatives have pointed to NPR (and PBS) as a “liberal media” outlet.

Despite the commonness of such claims, little evidence has ever been presented for a left bias at NPR, and FAIR’s latest study gives it no support. Looking at partisan sources—including government officials, party officials, campaign workers and consultants—Republicans outnumbered Democrats by more than 3 to 2 (61 percent to 38 percent). A majority of Republican sources when the GOP controls the White House and Congress may not be surprising, but Republicans held a similar though slightly smaller edge (57 percent to 42 percent) in 1993, when Clinton was president and Democrats controlled both houses of Congress. And a lively race for the Democratic presidential nomination was beginning to heat up at the time of the 2003 study.
Partisans from outside the two major parties were almost nowhere to be seen, with the exception of four Libertarian Party representatives who appeared in a single story (Morning Edition, 6/26/03).

Republicans not only had a substantial partisan edge, individual Republicans were NPR’s most popular sources overall, taking the top seven spots in frequency of appearance. George Bush led all sources for the month with 36 appearances, followed by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld (8) and Sen. Pat Roberts (6). Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Secretary of State Colin Powell, White House press secretary Ari Fleischer and Iraq proconsul Paul Bremer all tied with five appearances each.

Senators Edward Kennedy, Jay Rockefeller and Max Baucus were the most frequently heard Democrats, each appearing four times. No nongovernmental source appeared more than three times. With the exception of Secretary of State Powell, all of the top 10 most frequently appearing sources were white male government officials.

To paraphrase someone, who I sadly can't remember the name, why does it seem like right wing pundits are expected to be emotional and say whatever they want without regard for balance while left wing pundits are expected to present balanced arguments without the anger or emotion?


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