NPR and PBS are the media outlets liberals love to love.
For example, a Pew research study in 2014 found that liberals rate both the news programs on these outlets as the best in the business. NPR and PBS don’t even make the lists for conservatives.
Why is there such a difference? The American Prospect had this to say about NPR and PBS: “They’re careful, reasoned, polite, cosmopolitan, serious with the occasional touch of whimsy—in short, everything liberals either are or imagine themselves to be. And everyone at NPR seems so nice—how could you not trust them? So liberals do, and most of them listen.”
Simply put, NPR and PBS are the safe zone media if you are a liberal. They also make liberals feel smart. That’s why the news media—staffed largely by liberals—are so opposed to the elimination of funding for NPR and PBS in the Trump budget.
The argument stresses that $600 million is such a small part of the overall budget. That’s more than half a billion dollars the two organizations’ output! As the old barb goes: a billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking about real money.
Even a member of the board of CPB, which funds public broadcasting, says that the organizations have strayed from their initial goals.
In a column in The Washington Post, Howard Husock writes, “If public broadcasters continue to receive federal support, they must start appealing to more than just blue-state America. They should revisit and expand the meaning of diversity to include more ideological and geographic perspectives.”
It’s worth noting that the program referred to Trump as “Grump” over several decades in what even The Washington Post calls “surprisingly vicious takedowns of Donald Trump.” For more details, see https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/arts-and-entertainment/wp/2017/03/20/trump-wants-to-defund-pbs-sesame-street-brutally-parodied-him-for-decades/ It’s one thing to make fun of the president on Saturday Night Live! It’s entirely different for a publicly funded “kids” show.
Amazingly, Sesame Street apparently has no street smarts or business sense. It makes $150 million a year in selling stuff and licensing fees, but it usually operates at a loss.
Other content at PBS generally has reflected a liberal-to-left political slant ever since the network’s inception. As the Capital Research Center reports, “most PBS news programs are little more than left-wing agitprop”; PBS’s “flagship public affairs series, Frontline, typically focuses on “corporate malfeasance” and “political intrigue”; the “human-interest stories on Independent Lens and P.O.V. are politically correct lamentations on social oppression or celebrations of ‘diversity’”; the science program Nova “frequently bemoans man’s destructive interference with nature”; and the series NOW, hosted by David Brancaccio, “is dedicated to blaming corporate America for every crisis and targeting politicians and big media for every cover-up.
Bill Moyers, the former LBJ spokesman, was a prominent host and producer of various PBS programs from 1970 through his retirement in 2004. Toward the end of Moyers’ career, approximately 30 PBS affiliates stopped airing his partisan show NOW, which he hosted before David Brancaccio, during the network’s pledge drives, partly out of fear that the program’s bias would alienate potential donors. NOW had also become an ethical embarrassment because Moyers, without informing his audience, had used his taxpayer-subsidized show to promote guests from at least 16 leftist organizations that had received some $4.8 million in grants from the Schumann Center, which he heads.
PBS’s political bias has been evident in many of its high-profile, special productions over the years. The 2001 documentary Enemies of War, for instance, recounts the 1980s civil war in El Salvador. While denigrating the elected anti-Communist Salvadoran government that was backed by the Reagan administration and was fighting against Marxist terrorists from neighboring Nicaragua, the film lauds the efforts of those who “halted U.S. involvement” in the region and thereby helped El Salvador “generat[e] peace instead of war.”
In 2005, PBS broadcast the three-hour documentary series Heaven on Earth: The Rise and Fall of Socialism. A PBS synopsis of this production described socialism as “the vision that life could be lived in peace and brotherhood if only property were shared by all and distributed equally, eliminating the source of greed, envy, poverty and strife.”
Other notable, politically charged programs which PBS has aired include:
—Alcatraz Is Not an Island, about the 1969 takeover and occupation of Alcatraz by Native American activists
—Affluenza, which explores “the high social and environmental costs of materialism and over-consumption”
—The Good War and Those Who Refused To Fight It, about conscientious objectors who chose not to take part in combat during World War II
—Islam: Empire of Faith, a production that whitewashes the more violent and intolerant aspects of the Muslim faith.
In April 2007, PBS shelved a documentary titled Islam vs. Islamists: Voices from the Muslim Center, which examines how moderate American Muslims have struggled to resist Islamic militancy. Frank Gaffney, Jr., co-producer of the film and president of the Center for Security Policy, asserts that PBS suppressed the film because its bluntness did not advance the network’s multicultural agenda which called for programming that was “more flattering to the Islamists.”
In a recent speech, Ken Burns, one of the most prominent fixtures of PBS, gave this description of Donald Trump:
‘’…a person who easily lies, creating an environment where the truth doesn’t seem to matter; who has never demonstrated any interest in anyone or anything but himself and his own enrichment; who insults veterans, threatens a free press, mocks the handicapped, denigrates women, immigrants and all Muslims; a man who took more than a day to remember to disavow a supporter who advocates white supremacy and the Ku Klux Klan; an infantile, bullying man who, depending on his mood, is willing to discard old and established alliances, treaties and long-standing relationships. I feel genuine sorrow for the understandably scared and — they feel — powerless people who have flocked to his campaign in the mistaken belief that — as often happens on TV — a wand can be waved and every complicated problem can be solved with the simplest of solutions. They can’t. It is a political Ponzi scheme. And asking this man to assume the highest office in the land would be like asking a newly minted car driver to fly a 747.”
PBS also has a lot of leftist financial backers. The Park Foundation, for example, is a major funder of Burns and PBS. The foundation is headed by Adelaide Gomer, who has given money to a variety of leftist causes such an anti-fracking groups. She also got me ousted from my job as the Roy Park Distinguished Chair at Ithaca College—an honorary chair named for her late father—because of my conservative views.
I don’t listen to NPR. I don’t watch PBS. I don’t want to pay anything for either. I know a lot of people who think the same way I do. If the cost of public broadcasting is so relatively cheap in the grand scheme of things, according to its supporters, let those who use the networks pay for them.
Christopher Harper teaches media law.