By Eric Rozenman/JNS.org
If a scandal festers in Washington but no one reports it, is
it still scandalous?
Click photo to download. Caption: National Public Radio (NPR) headquarters in Washington, DC. NPR continues to produce coverage biased against Israel, writes Eric Rozenman. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
Forget, for a moment, headlines about the National Security
Agency, Internal Revenue Service and Justice Department reportedly snooping on
or obstructing ordinary citizens, political opponents or journalists. Consider
instead the less dramatic but longer-running example of an under-the-radar
scofflaw federal agency.
The agency is the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB).
One result of its virtual impunity continues to be National Public Radio (NPR) coverage biased against Israel.
The federal Telecommunications Act of 1967, as amended in
1991, requires, among other things, “strict adherence to objectivity and
balance in all programs or series of programs of a controversial nature.”
The act established CPB, now tax supported at approximately
$450 million annually. Most of that money is passed through to stations,
outside producers, and, directly or indirectly, to NPR and television’s Public
Broadcasting Service (PBS).
In November, 2005 CPB’s presidentially-appointed,
Senate-approved board members were discomfited by a report from the
corporation’s inspector-general. He found
CPB operations deficient in eight areas. One of those was objectivity and
was not news to CAMERA–the 65,000-member, Boston-based Committee for Accuracy
in Middle East Reporting in America. Our research, available atwww.camera.org, details hundreds of NPR’s
Arab-Israeli reports that violate the objectivity and balance standard.
According to I-G Kenneth Konz, CPB had failed to fulfill its
legal obligation to “review, on a regular basis, national public broadcasting
programming… for objectivity and balance….” In fact, he determined that it had
never established a mechanism–set standards and assigned staff–to do so.
Today, eight additional years later, it still hasn’t.
Responding to their inspector-general, CPB board members
upgraded corporation practice in the other seven areas relatively quickly. But
when it came to instituting regular reviews for objectivity and balance in
national programming, progress slowed.
Board members and CPB senior officials talked. They hired a
consultant. They requested objectivity and balance “white papers” at $15,000
apiece from journalism professors. Call it death-by-process.
Congress possesses oversight authority regarding CPB, but
many members don’t want to exercise it. Why risk charges of “trying to kill Big
Bird” or “censoring freedom of the press”? This even though public
broadcasting, unlike private news media, takes the King’s shilling. House and
Senate oversight committees satisfy themselves annually with receipt of a CPB
report that says, in essence, “we’ve checked and we’re doing a great job.”
Nevertheless, a few members of Congress, including
Democratic Representatives Brad Sherman (Calif.), Steve Israel (N.Y.), and
Steve Rothman (N.J.), Republican Eric Cantor (Va.) and Republican Senator Sam
Brownback (Kan.) urged CPB to meet its statutory requirement for regular review
of national programming to ensure objectivity and balance compliance.
CAMERA did so in testimony during CPB’s annual “Open to the
Public” hearings, letters to board members, meetings with CPB senior staff and
All to no avail.
Instead, the CPB board eventually revised its existing
ombudsman’s office, which the I-G had found irrelevant to the required
objectivity and balance reviews. The corporation hired a journalism professor
who’d submitted one of the …read more