Apr
11
2012

Winners of the 2012 Election Revealed

Forget the polls and the horserace for a second. In this election season, the big winners will be big media. As most people should know–but media don't tell you very often–much of the money that flows into and around the campaigns is used to buy advertising. Which means that television and radio stations make a lot of money during the campaign season. There are attempts to shine a light on this arrangement–such as the effort to make TV stations post advertising data online (something that–surprise, surprise!–TV stations don't care for). That's what made this exchange on public television's Nightly Business […]

Apr
03
2012

When War Is in the Air on PBS

One of the most troubling aspects of all the media coverage of an attack on Iran is that it can make a radically destabilizing act of unprovoked war seem like just another policy choice. I thought of this when I saw a PBS NewsHour segment (3/28/12) that set out to ponder the consequences of an Israeli attack on Iran. PBS reporter Margaret Warner oddly framed Israeli public opinion this way: Though the Iranian regime has vowed to destroy the Jewish state, recent polls in Israel show only 19 percent would support their government attacking Iran unilaterally. Hearing that, you might […]

Mar
19
2012

Is PBS Trying to Hide Some of Public TV's Best Work?

In the New York Times (3/19/12), Elizabeth Jensen reports on some unusual scheduling decisions at PBS that are diminishing the audience for some of the best stuff you're likely to see on public television–the acclaimed documentary series Independent Lens and POV: After being bumped from Tuesday nights to a hodgepodge of time slots, Independent Lens has lost 39 percent of its average audience for new episodes this season, compared with a year ago, according to Nielsen ratings provided by ITVS, which produces the series. Jensen's report–which expanded on news first reported by the public broadcasting newspaper Current–noted that many prominent […]

Jan
27
2012

Pentagon Budgets and Fuzzy Math

By the tone of some of the media coverage, you might have thought Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced a plan to slash military spending yesterday. On the front page of USA Today (1/27/12), under the headline "Panetta Backs Far Leaner Military," readers learn in the first paragraph: The Pentagon's new plan to cut Defense spending means a reduction of 100,000 troops, the retiring of ships and planes and closing of bases–moves that the Defense secretary said would not compromise security. The piece quotes critics of the cuts like Sen. Joe Lieberman and an analyst at the right-wing American Enterprise Institute. […]

Jan
17
2012

PBS, NPR Try to Defend Iran Distortions

Evaluating reporting and commentary about Iran could be reduced to one simple rule: There is no evidence that Iran is working on a nuclear weapon. Statements that suggest otherwise are misleading. Reports that fail to point this out are doing readers/viewers/listeners a disservice. That sounds simple enough. But don't tell that to the outlets that are being criticized over their Iran reporting. Take NPR and PBS, both of which were singled out by the group Just Foreign Policy. A few days ago (1/10/12), the FAIR Blog featured a post criticizing the PBS NewsHour for a deceptive report on Iran. The […]

Jan
10
2012

PBS's Dishonest Iran Edit

As if tensions between the United States and Iran weren't high enough, here's PBS NewsHour anchor Margaret Warner (1/9/12): The Iranian government insists that its nuclear activities are for peaceful energy purposes only, an assertion disputed by the U.S. and its allies. On CBS yesterday, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta repeated international demands that Iran stop enriching uranium. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE LEON PANETTA: But we know that they're trying to develop a nuclear capability, and that's what concerns us. And our red line to Iran is, do not develop a nuclear weapon. That's a red line for us. They need […]

Jan
09
2012

If PBS Is Afraid of Moyers, Maybe It Needs a New Slogan

Elizabeth Jensen has a preview (New York Times, 1/8/12) of the new Bill Moyers program coming to public television stations later this month–a show that is not being distributed by PBS. Why not? She reports: Mr. Moyers said he was unsure why PBS, where he has spent most of his career since 1971, declined the show for its main schedule. Some public television executives, who would not publicly comment on a sensitive issue, said they believed that PBS did not want to realign itself with Mr. Moyers, a longtime target of some conservatives, as it was fighting to keep its […]

Dec
21
2011

Tom Friedman Not Sucking It on Iraq War

Today New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman (12/21/11) gives readers a sense of what the Iraq War was all about: Iraq was always a war of choice. As I never bought the argument that Saddam had nukes that had to be taken out, the decision to go to war stemmed, for me, from a different choice: Could we collaborate with the people of Iraq to change the political trajectory of this pivotal state in the heart of the Arab world and help tilt it and the region onto a democratizing track? Huh. A collaborative effort with the people of Iraq? […]

Dec
09
2011

Why Is PBS Telling Us That Profit Is Journalism's Friend?

PBS has a website called MediaShift, billed as "Your Guide to the Digital Media Revolution." Based on an alarming post this week headlined "Tear Down the Wall Between Business and Editorial!" (12/7/11), the revolution looks rather revolting. The piece is written by Dorian Benkoil, who "handles marketing and sales strategies for MediaShift, and is the business columnist for the site"–a job description that suggests that PBS has already torn down the wall between business and editorial, since those responsibilities would seem to put you in a constant position of conflict of interest. (He earlier worked as "a liaison between the […]

Nov
18
2011

Public TV's Biz Show Now Owned By….

The public TV show Nightly Business Report has gone through some serious changes over the past year or so–sold by the public station that had produced it for years to a somewhat mysterious private company run by an entrepreneur whose been the subject of various controversies and lawsuits. The show's been sold once again, and the new owner of public television's premier business newscast is… an investment firm called Atalaya Capital Management. And why not, really.

Oct
28
2011

Occupy Charlie Rose!

With the bad news we've been talking about on the public broadcasting front, it's worth pointing out a bright spot: On Monday (10/24/11), Charlie Rose featured a discussion of Occupy Wall Street with Chris Hedges and Amy Goodman. Goodman made an important point about media coverage of the protests: CHARLIE ROSE: Does it have anything in common with the Tea Party? AMY GOODMAN: Well, it's interesting you ask that. When the people gathered on September 16 and 17–what, 2000 people–hardly any coverage they got. If it was 2000 Tea Party activists who gathered on Wall Street, I would dare said […]

Sep
23
2011

Public TV's Inequality Balancing Act

The PBS NewsHour did a pretty strong piece last month (8/16/11) on inequality in America. So perhaps it was a sense of "balance" that drove them to do a follow-up segment on September 21 that argued that things aren't so bad after all. As anchor Jeffrey Brown put it: NewsHour economics correspondent Paul Solman has been examining that subject, including studies showing an alarming rise in the so-called wealth gap. But tonight's interview takes issue with that view. It turns out that one of Solman's old friends, American University economics professor Bob Lerman, didn't much care for that piece: "It […]

Aug
02
2011

PBS in the UK?

There was an interesting piece in the New York Times yesterday (8/1/11) by Elizabeth Jensen about plans to ship PBS programming across the pond. It's a hard concept to get your head around, especially if you're under the impression that Britain's public broadcasting system is superior to our own. That might not be the strangest part, though: W. David Lyons, chairman and chief executive of the Orca Exploration Group, which operates a Tanzanian natural gas field, is backing the PBS UK project financially. PBS described him as "a Canadian-born entrepreneur and venture philanthropist" who "grew up on PBS programming and […]