Spotlight on Public Media

            If one has published a novel, a good way to get publicity for it is to have worked at NPR. A former reporter just published a book, and she got a story on Monday’s Morning Edition and on Friday’s All Things Considered. The morning segment was over seven minutes, longer than that broadcast’s reports on the riots in Brazil, the violence in Iraq, or the G-8 summit. What a deal! Nepotistic Public Radio. (It’s also worth noting that the ex-journalist/author used to cover national security for NPR. The former director of the CIA offered a blurb that’s published on the front cover of her novel. Don’t you feel good about our freedoms knowing that members of the press are apparently so chummy with those they’re supposed to challenge? How much hell would you give someone if you hoped to get a blurb from that person later in life?) Back in 2005, the host of Weekend Edition Saturday, who had just published a novel, got to talk about his book on NPR’s Morning Edition and on NPR’s Fresh Air. The public airwaves are more public on NPR than they are on Clear Channel, but the coziness on display this week suggests that NPR is as protective of its people and properties as is any corporation.

            Indeed, NPR fought the FCC’s opening of the airwaves to low-power stations. NPR hasn’t reported on the opening up of the spectrum at all this year, but a reporter at least mentioned NPR’s opposition to it in a December 12, 2012, story. At NPR, there’s public, and then there’s public. NPR wants to keep the public out of the public it’s created and branded for itself.

            On PBS, things are no better. Nightly Business Report, a celebration of all things capitalist and market-driven, is a property of CNBC now. General Electric owns CNBC. As I’ve mentioned several times before, boring entity David Brooks is a weekly guest on the PBS NewsHour (and NPR’s All Things Considered) even though he already has access to the public via the corporation for which he writes. In 2010 FAIR did a study of the PBS NewsHour and found that 67% of the guests on the show during the time period studied were white men, even though they make up not even a third of the country’s population. News came late in May that PBS may have exercised self-censorship when a documentary critical of the criminal Koch Brothers set to air on the network caught the attention of the Kochs.

            How, then, are these institutions public? They both accept corporate money, and both have ads, even if they appear before and after the programs or come via the mellifluous voices of the local NPR hosts. They interview corporate journalists. They surrender to the rich and powerful they’re supposed to challenge. It would be unfair and incorrect of me to say that they don’t have stories that aren’t found in the corporate media, but PBS and NPR continue to mimic their corporate colleagues more than they should. The nepotism, pandering to purveyors of platitudes, and reliance upon elite officials is unacceptable in institutions supported by our taxes.

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