NPR and PBS Too Conservative, Say Liberal Lawmakers

July 7, 2008 - 8:03 PM

( - A Wednesday House hearing on federal funding for the taxpayer-run Public Broadcasting Service and National Public Radio turned into a debate between subcommittee Republicans and Democrats about news reporting and overall programming bias.

The debate began during opening statements from members of the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications. Wednesday's hearing included five public broadcasting officials, one cable television official, and Andrea Lafferty -- executive director of the Traditional Values Coalition and one of public television and radio's biggest critics.

Democrats contend that NPR and PBS are too conservative while the Republicans believe both networks are too liberal.

The subcommittee's ranking Democrat, Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) began the debate. "Without question, there is bias in the coverage that is on public television and radio. It is far too conservative," said Markey, drawing laughter from the crowd.

"I get tired of seeing Paul Gigot. I get tired of seeing George Will on baseball and that classic Republican, Oscar the grouch on Sesame Street. You can't turn the dial without running into Republican-oriented, conservative commentators on public television. It's just a sea of conservatism on public TV," Markey said.

"Wall Street Week, I think, has gotten even more conservative," Markey added.

Louis Rukeyser hosted "Wall Street Week" for over 20 years until PBS dismissed him earlier this year. He now hosts a similar version of the program on Friday nights on CNBC.

But Markey's Republican colleague, Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La.) believes there is too much liberal bias on public television, even though he conceded he watches many PBS programs.

Tauzin urged the public broadcasting officials at the subcommittee's witness table to be "more attentive" about complaints from Americans about liberal bias in their broadcasts.

"When you hear complaints from Americans about public dollars being spent and the way you should spend them, take it seriously. Don't make fun of them because they happen to believe very strongly in their (religious) faith. Don't make fun of the things they believe in," Tauzin said.

Rep. Chip Pickering (R-Miss.) believes National Public Radio needs more secular and religious perspective in its broadcasts, "so NPR can, instead of being a divisive force, can be a force that creates respect for all points of view and especially those who hold deep religious beliefs and needs," he said.

The debate got heated when Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) made his opening statement. He said he was tired of Republicans complaining about liberal bias in the media and insisted Republicans are trying to move NPR further to the right.

"It's the same old Republican game they play, trying to intimidate CNN, trying to intimidate newspapers, trying to play this game that this media in this country are too liberal," said Brown.

"I ask all of you," he said, looking at the public broadcast executives, "not to be intimidated by that. Don't get put over the fence by conservative Republicans trying to nail you as the liberal media. You are not the liberal media. You seem generally to be fair.

"They tell us that Fox is unbiased, which is laughable to anybody that is fair minded. I can pick out examples of NPR as I listen to it almost every morning, about its conservative bias. Paul Gigot, George Will, John Fund, Louis Rukeyser," said Brown.

"Cokie Roberts defends George Bush as a member of the family half the time," he said.

Roberts did not return phone calls Wednesday seeking comment.

E-mail a news tip to Jim Burns.

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