Upper Left Coast

Thoughts on politics, faith, sports and other random topics from a red state sympathizer in indigo-blue Portland, Oregon.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Regime Change at PBS

So goes the headline in today's Oregonian about an editorial on the Corporation for Public Broadcasting

The gist of this editorial is that the Bush administration is "playing politics" with the CPB with the installation of "conservative PBS-basher" Kenneth Tomlinson as the CPB's chairman and Patricia de Stacy Harrison — "Her main qualification? She's a former party fundraiser and Republic National Committee co-chairwoman who ended up in a State Department job"— as CPB chief executive.

I fail to understand why a liberal running the CPB (pick any chairman prior to Tomlinson) is termed an "independent advocate" for the corporation, or some such thing, while a conservative running the CPB is suddenly a toy of a conservative administration hell-bent on destroying the entity.

The editorial then rebuffs the claims by conservatives that the CPB is elite and left-leaning:
Elitist? That's not true. Nationwide, "Morning Edition" is the most popular radio news program in the United States. In Portland, Oregon Public Broadcasting is the city's most popular radio station in the morning and evening drive times.

Left-leaning? Surveys show that a majority of the public does not perceive bias in public broadcasting.
The problem with these claims? First, the Arbitron ratings don't include public radio, so I'm told by someone much smarter than me about Portland media (I'll tell who if he gives me permission) that this information probably got into the O's hands from someone at OPB who contacted the editorial board with research it has done about itself. My source also said no Portland radio station does news coverage during the afternoon drive (other than in snippets), so it's an easy and irrelevant claim to make.

And that alleged survey showing that a majority of the public perceives no bias in public broadcasting? It was commissioned and paid for by — you guessed it — the CPB. The survey results have never been released (only a synopsis from the CPB), even though the survey was done two years ago, so we have no idea what questions were asked, who they were asked to, or how reliable the results might be.

Oooh, the survey was done jointly by a Democratic and a Republican polling firm. But check out the "Republican" firm's client list, and other than Trent Lott & Tom DeLay, I see a lot of what I'll generously call "moderate" Republicans.

The Oregonian finishes:
When PBS and other public programming has veered from the moderate middle -- and it has -- its large, highly engaged audience and hundreds of stations have been quick to jerk its chain. That's their role, not that of political hacks atop the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
Show me where audiences and stations have "jerked the chain" of the CPB. I don't think you can, unless you mean examples where the liberals have pulled it back from a moderate lean away from the left (like they're trying to do now). Conservatives have been trying to jerk that chain for years, but the liberal CPB establishment wouldn't let them close enough to effect change. The CPB has shown its unwillingness to enact self-examination, listening only to the "highly engaged audience" on the left side of the political spectrum, so the only recourse is political.


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