A short, anonymous comment to an earlier post--"CPB versus BBC, and What It May Mean for Politics"--raises two important issues I wanted to reflect on, in two separate posts.
Here's the comment: IMO [in my opinion] government media is going to be suspect and antithetical to conservatives whether in the US or UK.
More later on whether government-funded media is the same as "government media," but first, is this claim about the treatment of conservatives valid?
I think this is more an article of faith than fact.
Certainly in the UK, Labour Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown would disagree with the assertion. See for instance Tony Blair's farewell attack on the media, in which he said, "today's media, more than ever before, hunts in a pack. In these modes it is like a feral beast, just tearing people and reputations to bits. But no one dares miss out." Clearly the BBC was square in his sights--and David Kelly in his memory--when he made this speech.
Gordon Brown got an even rougher ride. He--as well as his Government--was often put in the box of "worthy of ridicule" once his honeymoon ended and he was perceived to dither away the calling of a "snap election." During the same period, the Conservative David Cameron, increasingly portrayed as the Prime Minister-in-waiting, was given much lighter scrutiny, at least prior to the final campaign month (yes, it's just a month long there, and no TV ads allowed).
What about over here? I haven't seen an analysis that breaks down recent media coverage by cable versus networks versus PBS, but media analysis does suggest that at least in Bush's first term, foreign policies received fairly little critical treatment from the mainstream media. It was only in the second term that the critical lenses got focused.
And though it's just an impression, it seems more recently like there are weeks when NPR can't seem to get enough of Sarah Palin.
What the view may boil down to is this--and I have some very limited first-hand experience of the following hunch from hosting "The Campbell Conversations"--the overall audience for PBS and NPR is, relatively speaking, more liberal and less friendly toward conservatives. People are aware of this fact and many take their bearings about the stations' content from it. I can say, for example, that I tend to get more critical comments about my program when I have conservative people on the show.
So some of the motivation for cutting off the CPB's funding is probably being driven by a perception of what the "constituency" for the programming is. And that takes us back to Christopher Cook's observation about the BBC in my earlier post, that part of its funding security rests on its deep--and broad--appeal.
Note: This blog draws in part on my experiences and observations interviewing political figures, writers, and analysts for "The Campbell Conversations" on WRVO. To hear past interviews I refer to in these posts, please go to the show's website. The views expressed here are solely my own, and do not represent Syracuse University, the Campbell Institute, or the WRVO Stations.
In addition to comments, I'd love to have guest posts. Please send ideas or full-blown posts to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.