According to FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting), PBS touts its "signature style--low-key, evenhanded, inclusive of all perspectives"; Corporation forPublic Broadcasting ombud Ken Bode called it "the mother ship of balance." But a new FAIR study finds that the NewsHour fails to provide either balance ordiversity of perspectives--or a true public-minded alternative to its corporate competition.
To evaluate the NewsHour's evenhandedness and commitment to the public interest, Extra! studied its guestlist during the six-month period spanning October 2005 through March 2006. Among the most prominent findings:
* Public interest groups accounted for just 4 percent of total sources. General public--"person in the street," workers, students--accounted for only 14 percent, while current and former government and military officials totaled 50 percent of all sources.
* Male sources outnumbered women by more than 4-to-1 (82 percent to 18 percent). Moreover, 72 percent of U.S. guests were white males, while just 6percent were women of color (and more than half of them were Condi Rice, all by herself!)
* People of color made up only 15 percent of U.S. sources. African-Americans made up 9 percent, Latinos 2 percent, and Asian-Americans and people ofMideastern descent made up one percent each. Alberto Gonzales accounted for more than 30 percent of Latino sources, while (again) Condoleeza Rice ALONE accounted for nearly 13 percent of African-American sources.
* Among partisan sources, Republicans outnumbered Democrats on the NewsHour by 2-to-1 (66 percent vs. 33 percent). Only one representative of a third party appeared during the study period.
* "Stay the course" sources outnumbered pro-withdrawalsources more than
5-to-1, at a time when a large proportion of the U.S. public already favored withdrawal from Iraq, In the entire six months studied, not a single peace activist was heard on the NewsHour on the subject of Iraq.
* Segments on Hurricane Katrina accounted for less than 10 percent of all sources, but provided nearly half (46 percent) of all African-American sources during the study period. Those African-Americans were largely presented asvictims rather than leaders or experts: In segments on the human impact of the storm, African-Americans made up 51 percent of sources, but in reconstruction segments, whites dominated with 72 percent of sources; 59 percent of all African-American sources across Katrina segments were general public sources.
So much for balance and diversity. I haven't sent a dime to PBS for 15 years, and I doubt I ever shall again.