Your Saturday PBS fun link

On Tuesday, my friend George Neumayr, executive editor of The American Spectator, was a talking head on NewsHour With Jim Lehrer. The subject: funding for PBS and NPR. Neumayr argued a) that the publicly-funded stations are dripping with liberal bias; and b) that Congress should discontinue the subsidy. The letters continue to pour in to the Spectator. For George-Neumayr-go-to-hell letters, look here. Anti-PBS (and PBS viewers) letters here. Neumayr breaks out the f word here. Outraged Media Matters coverage here. Picture of a woodpecker here.

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  • Huw Raphael

    Well, apart from the cultural war slant, I don’t understand why anyone thinks it’s the Gov’t's job to fund media. Neumayr can talk about bias, etc, but it’s nothing more than an extension of Fed Gov’t – and my tax dollars – into a field not granted by the Constitution. That’s the real conservative argument. Liberal Cultur Kampf is secondary.

  • Chris Holterhoff

    I did a quick scan of the hate mail link to see what some idiots would be saying. I wasn’t disappointed.

    About 3/5ths down the page, there’s a comment that made me chuckle:

    “Doesn’t Mr. Neumayr realize the only good conservative is a dead conservative?
    – Andrew Breska”

    So I went and googled “Andrew Breska” for funsies and found his email (presumably) from a citrus genomics lab webpage from University of California Riverside. I was going to email him, but then I saw the 2nd google listing for the search, which was for a NY-area animal rescue organization, where a man named Andrew Breska put in a memorial for a deceased pet named “Whitey” a couple years ago.

    Seems just like someone who wished all conservatives were dead to name a pet “whitey,” right?

    If it’s the same guy, that’s pretty funny (sad).

  • Stephen A.

    PBS is not biased. Nope. No way, no how.

    Just consider the NPR “All Things Considered” coverage this past Thursday of the Congressional vote on PBS:
    1. First there was a disclaimer that NPR is funded by the money they’re talking about. Fair. Good move.
    2. Reporter then says “both sides” quoted Big Bird, as if this was a common occurrance.
    3. A Conservative is quoted as saying “Big Bird is a billionaire” due to sales of licensed merch. Yeah, it’s balanced, but this one, GOP come-back to the scare tactics of the Left about “killing Big Bird” has been a long time in coming and unlike the scare tactics, I’ve never heard it raised before. That wasn’t mentioned, of course.
    4. Then Liberal Congressman Markey of Mass. said “Keep your hands off Big Bird.” and said Oscar the Grouch represented the GOP. (Scare tactics were expected.)
    5. Later, Republican supporters of restoring funding were quoted. That was expected, too, since the reporter has to prove only the radical Right extremists are against the biased TV network.

    Incredibly, later in the same show, the “But Even Some Republicans Oppose their Party” tactic makes another appearance in a so-called ‘news’ story on Iraq. We never hear of Democrats opposing their party, nor are they lionized.

    Sorry folks, the ‘news’ we’re paying for is biased. I don’t know why the MSM doesn’t analyze these news stories like this. Or maybe I DO know why.

    Also, a story in the Wash Post about the appointment of a Republican President of PBS noted in passing that bias was being alleged, but then, for the other 4/5ths of the story, didn’t deal with the substance of the allegations, just the fact that some fear the GOP may be trying to “take over” PBS. I note the story referenced above does the same thing.

  • Steve Nicoloso

    I hate to be the one pointing out that the emperor isn’t wearing any clothes, but did anyone notice that Neumayr was on (PBS’s) The News Hour… with Jim Assistant (to Moyers of course) High-Priest-of-Liberal Leher… in what some liberals have described as a “softball” interview.

    Ha!! There is something wonderfully ironic (wonderfully conservative) in the “good conservative is a dead conservative” quip.


  • Jill

    Nice woodpecker picture!

  • ECJ

    Bias is not accurately measured by counting the number of conservative or liberal talking-heads on shows like “Firing Line.” Such shows state their convictions up front. Rather one must examine the unstated presuppositions which underly those programs which allegedly do not have a point of view.

    Open up a program listing for PBS and randomly place your finger on the page – you will with high probability be pointing to a program which presumes the truth of philosophical materialism. But try finding one which presumes the truth of a theistic world view. You will die first. And why exactly is that?

    PBS can without difficulty examine religion as a threat to civilization or perhaps as an obsolete residual of human development. But who could ever imagine PBS treating it as a credible explanation of existence? The very suggestion would be as well received by the PBS faithful as would flatulence at a formal dinner party.


  • Steve Nicoloso

    ECJ, 3 words and an ampersand:

    Religion & Ethics Newsweekly


  • Dorian Speed

    Stephen A, I heard the same NPR report and almost drove off the road with frustration. I hardly think our country’s founders risked their lives to establish a nation in which political discourse is reduced to the level of comparing our opponents to curmudgeonly MUPPETS.

  • ECJ


    This show airs here on Sunday at 1:00 pm (which explains why I have never heard of it) but I will see if I can watch it. Might be difficult today. However the endorsements and the featured links on the website do not give me a warm comfortable feeling. It is not a ringing endorsement for me when a show is heartily endorsed by the news services of liberal Protestant denominations.

    The show might deal fairly with religion, but what presuppositions does it bring to the discussion? What does it presume about the objective truth or falsehood of the subject it is covering. I suspect it possesses the same assumptions found on every other PBS show. But I will find time to watch it.

    One other thing. Liberal Religion (where Liberal is defined as ‘refusing to make exclusive metaphysical Truth claims’) doesn’t count in this discussion. Such religions have bought into the presuppositions of the modern world, and so they would be right at home on PBS. Btw, I really dislike using the term ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ in this context because of the obvious political overtones. I’m referring to Theology, and not politics.

    Now if you really want to impress me, then find an episode of ‘Nova’ that isn’t shot through with the naturalistic assumptions of materialism. Find that and I will declare to the world that I am wrong about PBS. :)


  • Stephen A.

    ECJ: For clarification, the show I’m referring to was a radio program on National Public Radio ironically titled, “All Things Considered.”

  • Steve Nicoloso

    R&E (as we call it around our home) is not a mouthpiece for some brand of orthodoxy, but they have gotten mentioned (and advertised) in First Things, which, though it has its detractors, is certainly no liberal rag. Neuhaus refers to R&E as “quality programming” in the May 99 Public Square. I don’t want to color anyone’s judgement who hasn’t watched, but I find their coverage to be quite fair and balanced (and I mean that in a way that cannot possibly be asserted for Rupert Murdoch’s megaphone). They (like GetReligion) take religion seriously. What else could one want? If you want propaganda, look elsewhere…

    I do recall Nova doing a fair piece on Intelligent Design a few years back. I think this was when we were still calling it “Creation Science.” They were much fairer than I would’ve been. Nova was always one of my favorite shows when I was regularly able to watch it, though I haven’t seen but one or two episodes in recent years.


  • ECJ


    Anyway, I watched today’s broadcast of R&E. Does it take religion seriously? I would say yes. Was it anything like “fair and balanced?” Let’s see. There were four pieces with a filmed report.

    1. Billy Graham. As he approaches death, he has been getting a lot of favorable publicity. There were subtexts in the story which seemed to juxtapose good ‘non-political’ Billy Graham from the evil Huns who voted in Bush. Admittedly this was subjective. I could call this story neutral if I look at it from a charitable perspective.

    2. The Anglican Crisus. This is a subject I have been following closely for about a year. There are four webpages (both Liberal and Conservative) on the subject that I visit daily. So this report left me less than impressed. It ommitted a few important facts such as 1) the vote to censure the ECUSA was affirmed by the (disproportiately liberal) ACC and 2) the primates were added to the ACC which will in the future reduce its liberal bent. I also noted that the conservative opposition got exactly one sentence in the entire report. This report assumed from beginning to end the perspective of the ECUSA. Nothing balanced about it.

    3. The Pregnancy Clinics. Or should I say the Anti-Abortion Pregnancy clinics lest anybody get the idea PBS might use the term “Pro-Life.” How I got through this report without blowing a blood vessel is beyond me. Suffice it to say that I was amazed to listen to a representative of Planned Parenthood – the LARGEST PROVIDER of abortions in this country – talk about the objective council they provide regarding abortion. Perhaps the tobacco industry should receive that much straight-faced credulity from the press. I spent a lot of energy yelling at the screen during this report. It was nothing but a (well-camoflaged) propaganda piece for the abortion industry.

    4. The Doulos. Coincidentally enough, I know a young woman who recently spent two years on the Doulos, and still works for the Ministry. She doesn’t talk about the ship the way the report does. So I don’t think those who watched got an accurate portrait of why people are on it. It wasn’t so much wrong as truncated. You would think that people are on the ship to travel the world in the company of other Christians and have adventures. That isn’t the whole story, or even the most important part. Blue-state blinders in operation.

    At the end, I thought “Typical of PBS. Nothing new here.”


  • Steve Nicoloso

    Well, ECJ, I must confess I didn’t catch the show this week, so I guess I cannot dispute your assertions. I guess I really don’t watch very much TV. Even the shows we really like we only catch once in a while. I’d be curious to find out what single commercial TV source you think likely to have given coverage at all, or better or fairer coverage, to these topics? I’m not aware of any TV show that, even allegedly, regularly speaks as intelligently about religion. Again perhaps my lack of attention to TV is simply a cause of ignorance on my part… not one I’m likely to remedy by watching more TV ;-) , but I am curious.


  • ECJ

    “I’d be curious to find out what single commercial TV source you think likely to have given coverage at all, or better or fairer coverage, to these topics? ”

    FoxNews, of course … he says while poking the Tiger with a stick ;) .

    But seriously. I perceive danger in this question. I must be careful to cut the correct wires in the correct order lest it blow up in my face.

    CSPAN is perhaps the closest example of an ideal media outlet I can think of. They are scrupulously careful to stay out of the way of the story, and let the actors involved speak for themselves. But then we get to the real world.

    I can’t think of any major media outlet which would cover every story I saw yesterday on R&E. Three of the four major stories would have been covered, and more than likely in much the same manner. USA Today did a story on Billy Graham just recenetly the focus of which was his alleged distance from the the “Christian Right.”
    Unless it touches on the Culture War, religion news is a niche market.

    It’s also true that I don’t expect “fair” coverage from media outlets. So I would never assert that there is some group out there which is doing a better job being “fair.” I suspect that the journalists involved in the R&E reports were scrupulously attempting to be “fair”, but they just couldn’t get that far beyond their own presuppositions.

    So what do I want? Used to be there were Republican newspapers and Democratic newspapers. One of the most interesting books I ever read was a record of the Lincoln-Douglas debates where the author constructed Lincoln’s words from Democratic nespapers, and Douglas’ words from Republican newspapers. That’s where the media needs to go – sort of an adversary system which would contain its own self-correcting mechanism.

    PBS could be a part of that. And I would listen. (Matter of fact, I really enjoy ‘As It Happens’ from Canada, and that is WAY to the left of PBS.) But I don’t want to be forced to pay for it.


  • Steve Nicoloso

    Well, ECJ, thank you for that careful bit of wirecutting. Your defusing skills are exquisite, and we all owe you our virtual lives :-) . I’d have to agree, by what little I’ve seen of it and much that I’ve heard, that CSPAN is probably as close to optimally unbiased news coverage as one can get. A pretty high entry point no doubt, but hey, elitism is quite underrated!! But I’ve also heard that they have little if any commercial advertising. And since this is, by far, my number one criteria for judging the fitness of programming, CSPAN would rank right up there with PBS for me.

    Furthermore, I absolutely agree that we’d be better off with news sources that are unafraid to wear their biases as badge of honor, vis-a-vis trying to hide them under a trenchcoat, or (worse) baldly lying to us about their existence.

    But why are party (adversarial) papers such a thing of the past? Sheer market forces, those that you would so easily unleash upon PBS, and government(s) unwilling to constrain them, if not actively encouraging them. In this regard, blogs seem to be the newest and best hope. I fear however that the vagaries of the market will eventually find a way to corrupt even these.

    I understand the complaint about having to pay for the CPB (though no doubt it is trifling), and there are no doubt zillions of things we all wish we didn’t have to pay for. (Poorly justified, poorly conceived, and poorly executed wars come first to my mind.) But doesn’t public funding give the public, by way of our elected representatives, a seat at the table on how this money is spent. Couldn’t political pressure be brought to bear to reform public broadcasting rather than raze it.

    I agree that it should better reflect the sensibilities of the people, than the sensibilities of an admittedly left-leaning elite. But turning public broadcasting over the whims of foibles of the market won’t do this. Instead we’ll get just another channel peddling the feelies on behalf of the highest bidder. Isn’t the unique and potential good of commercial free (or limited) broadcasting worth these trifling pennies and the endurance of a transitional period that reform would necessrily take?


  • ECJ


    CSPAN isn’t an elite media – its an ideal media sort of like Boyle’s Law with gasses. It only works over a certain range of stories. There are some stories that CSPAN is just not constructed to cover – like 9/11 for instance. Now, journalists could adopt the CSPAN method of disengagement, but journalists desire most to be evangelists and save the world. So they won’t.

    I was surprised at your comments about the market. The market is the principle reason we have alternate media. MSM tone-deafness to its own internal bias created an opportunity for talk-radio, FoxNews, and the Blogs. And the market promptly exploited it. Those howls and shrieks you hear are MSM analysts reviewing their market share trends.

    But really what market would PBS be delivered into? All I am suggesting is that PBS be fully listener-supported. So the market to which PBS would be responsible would be its own listeners. There doesn’t have to be any commercial advertising. Since the Public money contribution to CPB is so small – a pittance as it were – why would it be a burden for its listening community to make it up? Why is government money so important?

    Of course, PBS wouldn’t be able to maintain the fascade of ‘public’ anymore. But then it has never been ‘public’ to begin with. For that to be true, I would have to see myself in the network somewhere. And I don’t. Well, that’s not totally true. I am a Taliban who wants to impose theocracy, and stone Kerry voters. Alternatively I am an interesting microbe in a petri dish being examined by learned men trying to figure out how I could actually believe all this ‘religion stuff.’

    Market forces wouldn’t necessarily fix this. But it would clarify the ambiguitites. PBS could no longer hide behind assertions that it is acting in the ‘public interest.’ Instead it would be seen for what it is – a network for secular, upscale liberals. Accuracy is a good thing.


  • Steve Nicoloso

    There doesn’t have to be any commercial advertising. Since the Public money contribution to CPB is so small – a pittance as it were – why would it be a burden for its listening community to make it up? Why is government money so important?

    Well, on this I would say, we aren’t necessarily agreed, but I’m certainly willing to declare detente. Gov’t money mustn’t be so important as we’re led to believe. It must therefore be much more of a symbol than a sacrament. In fact, it isn’t even clear to me that viewer/listener money is terribly important. Three times a year, my NPR/PRI affiliate, WNYC (I’ll give you 3 guesses what the letters “NYC” stand for and the 1st two don’t count ;-) ), goes on the air and says the gov’t money is a very small part of their budget, and that the “majority” of their support comes from listeners “like me.” (Full disclosure: NPR blares through our house several hours each day… except during fundraising time.) But for every hour of the fund-drive they have dollar-for-dollar matching and for a few of the hours they have two-for-one matching. Whence come these “matching” gifts? From uber-rich NYC liberals dedicated to the existence and mission of WNYC. So for every dollar a listener “like me” sends in, it is matched by one or two coming from an uber-rich NYC liberal, usually a member of the WNYC board of trustees. So the claim that a majority of their funds come from listeners like me is bogus prima facie.

    Short-story-long… there is little doubt that public radio/TV would get along relatively unscathed without gov’t funding. But I like the idea of public broadcasting, and though I could wish that it better reflected public sensibilities (save for a penchant 24 hour news dribble and reality-porn TV), I find most of its offerings unobjectionable, even when I don’t necessarily agree with their slant. I therefore am relatively unbothered by tax dollars going to support it. If however, the funding cow was unhooked, I doubt I’d be lighting myself on fire in protest… and I might be just a tad more inclined to offer my checkbook in exchange.


  • ECJ

    Detente it is then. I’m not sure who won, but I learned something. :)