Sunday, July 03, 2005

CPB liberal bias study flawed :: WaPo

A consultant who monitored news and talk programs on public radio and TV found that liberal and anti-administration views were widespread, but critics said the consultant's work was itself biased and riddled with errors.

The consultant, Frederick W. Mann, was secretly hired last year by Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the agency that disburses about $400 million in federal tax funds to public broadcasters. In recent months, Tomlinson has criticized National Public Radio and the Public Broadcasting Service for an allegedly liberal bias and has pushed PBS to add programs with a more conservative tone. CPB hasn't released Mann's $14,000 study, which is the subject of an investigation by the CPB's inspector general as a possible abuse of taxpayer funds.
. . .
Mann never explains his labeling criteria or indicates in any detail which specific comment or comments earned a guest a particular characterization.
. . .
Mann's work was released yesterday by Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), who had requested a copy from the CPB. . . . Dorgan pointed out that "red-blooded" conservatives such as Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) and former congressman Bob Barr (R-Ga.) were classified as "liberal" and "anti-administration" apparently for briefly expressing views that differed from administration policy. Dorgan called the report "kind of a nutty project" and an "amateurish attempt to prove a liberal bias," noting Mann had apparently faxed his findings to Tomlinson from Mary Ann's Hallmark, a card store in Indianapolis.
Tomlinson appears to me to have shot himself in the foot on this one.

To push public radio and television to be entirely evenhanded is a recipe for pushing it to bland mediocrity. The real question is why should we have public radio and television at all. I like it, and I like it that my fellow taxpayers help provide it to me. But that's not a reason they should be compelled to. Perhaps the reason liberals don't have a strong private voice on radio is that public radio attracts away the paying audience that would listen to liberal privately funded stations.


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