Friday, May 06, 2005

The GOP takeover of PBS

The New York Times recently ran a story detailing the efforts of Bush's appointees to the board of directors for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to pressure PBS stations into airing pro-Republican programming and dissuading them from airing programming deemed to be unfavorable to the Bush administration.

The NYTimes ran a letter to the editor the next day that closely matched my thoughts on the matter:

The job of the press is to scrutinize government, not praise it. The administration gives its story in the best possible light using taxpayer money. That must be countered by a vigorously critical free press.
When have administrations, either Democratic or Republican, presented evenhanded pictures of what they do? The question isn't whether "Now" (formerly "Now With Bill Moyers") is critical of the Bush administration but whether it behaved differently during the Clinton administration.
If anything, our press has failed to be critical enough.

Indeed. If our press had been less gullible we might have avoided plunging headlong into this Iraqi quagmire on specious grounds with no clear idea of the consequences. Perhaps enough people may have been enlightened to the point that we could also have avoided this disastrous Bush presidency in the first place.

In a column in the LA Times Jonathan Chait makes a good point on the difference between a show like NOW with Bill Moyers and the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board show now on PBS.

(Kenneth)Tomlinson has chosen to balance off the documentary news program "Now" with a new program featuring punditry from conservative members of the Wall Street Journal editorial page. Tomlinson explains, " 'Now' is provocative. The Wall Street Journal program is provocative. Paired together, they create the perfect balance situation." Again, the equivalence is absurd. "Now" may tilt left in its choice of topics, but it practices real journalism: digging up facts, giving both sides their say, and so on. The Journal editorial page feels absolutely no need to constrain itself that way. Neither "Now" nor the Journal editorial page are balanced, in the same sense that neither Margaret Thatcher nor Paris Hilton are virgins.

The same analogy could work to explain the difference between Tom DeLay's ethics troubles and those of various Democratic congressmen who keep being trotted out by GOP apologists as proof that "everybody does it."

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