Accuracy in Media

There was a time when non-commercial public broadcasting may have offered an alternative that people couldn’t find elsewhere. With the rise of cable television and talk radio, however, U.S. taxpayer underwriting of television and radio is no longer needed. The public should not have to subsidize public broadcasting through tax dollars or tax breaks.

People have access to hundreds of cable channels and radio stations and networks. Also, satellite television and radio are available. There’s no need to force taxpayers to pay for programming they do not want or enjoy.

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), and National Public Radio (NPR) are no longer needed in their present form. Taxpayer funding for these entities should be completely terminated.  

Countering the well-documented liberal bias on such PBS programs as NOW, formerly hosted by Bill Moyers, CPB chairman Kenneth Tomlinson arranged for taxpayer funding, to the tune of about $5 million, for a new weekly broadcast featuring Paul Gigot and members of the editorial board of The Wall Street Journal. This has led to charges that Tomlinson is manipulating the political content of public broadcasting and threatening its independence. Tomlinson argues that he is trying to expand the potential audience of PBS and build support for the network.

Tomlinson is correct to insist that public broadcasting programs obey the law requiring objectivity and balance, as long as they receive federal money. But AIM does not believe the answer to liberal bias on public TV or radio is to fund conservative bias. The problem with this approach is that people like Moyers are going to be clamoring for more funding of liberal bias. Indeed, Moyers has asked, “Why not $5 million to put the editors of The Nation [magazine] on PBS?” He advocated balancing “right-wing talk with left-wing talk.”

AIM believes that this means the taxpayers lose. The proper response is to terminate the funding and save the taxpayers $400 million a year.  Isn’t this a reasonable compromise?

Enough is Enough

Enough money has been spent on public broadcasting. The Congress has appropriated over $8 billion to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting since 1969. It is time for taxpayer funding of public TV and radio to end. 

The solution to charges and counter-charges of bias is simple. It is to “liberate PBS” from the taxpayers, says The Chicago Tribune. In a May 9 editorial, the paper said, “Get the federal government out of the business of funding public television.”

The rationale for taxpayer funding of public broadcasting doesn’t make sense in a radically changing media landscape with more media choices than ever before. A report from the New Millennium Research Council finds media choices for consumers growing, not shrinking. As The Chicago Tribute notes, “Back in the 1960s when public television was born and first started getting federal dollars, the arrangement made sense. Viewers were stuck with three TV networks and maybe one of two independent TV stations in each market?” Today, it noted, there are quality offerings such as A&E, National Geographic, Discovery and The History Channel.

Liberal Morton Kondracke said he also favored de-funding public broadcasting. He announced on Special Report with Brit Hume on The Fox News Channel on May 9, 2005: “I agree with The Chicago Tribune. I mean, it is time for PBS to be, quote, unquote, ‘liberated.’ I mean, there is no reason why the government should be funding this particular set or helping fund this particular set of stations around the country when you have got the Discovery Channel, the History Channel, any number of children’s channels doing the same kind of thing.”

The fact, as honest liberals admit, is that non-commercial public broadcasting has become commercial anyway. PBS and NPR programs feature pitches for the corporations that underwrite the shows. They are not exactly commercials but they serve the same function. Plus, as columnist George Will noted in his column of March 3, 2005, PBS, which once promised creativity and diversity in programming, has now resorted to airing reruns from HBO. Will believes that PBS should be weaned from the public dollar.

A campaign to sharply reduce or terminate funding for public broadcasting was derailed years ago when it was falsely charged that this would lead to the death of Big Bird, a beloved figure for little children featured on Sesame Street. The program will survive in the marketplace if there is a market for it.
Even Sesame Street, however, has been tainted by the left-wing politics of the public broadcasting establishment. Back in 2001, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan appeared on Sesame Street “to help teach children how to resolve conflict,” as the BBC put it.  Annan appeared on the show and shared laughs with the puppets. But many Americans were not amused.  One viewer, who saw a re-run of the program in April 2005, wrote to PBS to say:

While watching Sesame Street today with my two year old niece, I was astonished to see U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan as a guest. For a program that generally steers itself away from politics this was a stunning scene. I choose to believe that the producers of your program are simply unaware of recent allegations against the agency run by Mr. Annan. I’ve attached two articles. One from ABC News details sordid allegations made against UN “peacekeepers” in Congo in which hundreds of little boys and girls have been raped in a child sex ring. Many of these hundreds of girls and boys were forced to perform sex acts that were photographed and videotaped and distributed on the internet. These are violent attacks in which children were even raped anally. If you think this is an “isolated” incident, a simple google search will lead you to many other instances of peacekeeper abuses. Beyond that, it’s now more evident than ever that high-level U.N. officials were on the take from Saddam Hussein. While the oil-for-food program was supposed to provide food, medicine and clothing for Iraqi children, the program really lined the pockets of Saddam Hussein, high U.N. officials, even Kofi Annan’s son. These allegations are well documented and are the focus of both a U.N. internal investigation (which has been surprisingly frank) and a Congressional investigation. Little children starved while Saddam got rich while the U.N. was paid to look the other way. I simply do not believe that the man in charge of an agency that has harmed so many innocent children is an appropriate guest for Sesame Street.

Annan himself made remarks at a September 30, 2003, United Nations Association event in honor of Joan Ganz Cooney and her Children’s Television Workshop, which created Sesame Street.

The U.N. seems to be a favorite cause of those who run the public broadcasting establishment. On January 7, 2003, PBS aired “Kofi Annan: Center of the Storm,” a glowing portrait of the U.N. Secretary-General. Publicity for the film declared, “As Secretary-General, Mr. Annan’s priorities have been the revitalization of the U.N. through a comprehensive program of reform; the strengthening of the organization’s traditional work in development; the maintenance of international peace and security; the encouraging and advocacy of human rights, the rule of law and the universal values of equality, tolerance and human dignity found in the U.N.’s charter; and the restoration of public confidence in the U.N. via outreach. Thanks to these efforts, the Secretary-General and the United Nations were awarded the 2001 Nobel Peace Prize.”

Now, of course, we know about the oil-for-food and pedophile peacekeeping scandals. 

In a blatant conflict of interest, funding for the film was provided by an interested party, the United Nations Foundation of billionaire Ted Turner, who himself provides hundreds of millions of dollars to the world body. Publicity materials for the film included a propaganda sheet for Turner’s U.N. Foundation and Better World Fund. 

So despite claims of independence, PBS has become a pawn of special interests. Other funders of the Annan film were the Coca-Cola Company and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

We at AIM have been sending postcards to billionaire George Soros, pointing out that Soros and his billionaire buddies wasted $100 million trying to elect John Kerry. We say to Soros: “We’re sorry your money went for nothing. However, you have a lot left over from your $7.2 billion fortune. We suggest that you announce that you will replace the $400 million of taxpayer money currently financing the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. You could get yourself a radio and TV network and take a load off the backs of the American taxpayers. This would be true philanthropy.”

The President’s new budget calls for the elimination or curtailment of some 150 programs. Unfortunately, he does not propose to terminate the dinosaur of public TV and radio. It’s time to make sure this dinosaur goes extinct. Taxpayer funding of PBS and NPR is not fair to private television and radio networks which have to survive without government funds. 

It shouldn’t be too difficult for these entities to wean themselves off the public dollar. PBS has 348 member stations and NPR has a network of 750 stations. If viewers and listeners support this kind of programming, they should support it freely with their own contributions. The taxpayers should not be forced to do so. 

CPB funding of PBS amounts to 24 percent or approximately $80 million of PBS’s $333 million 2004 budget. CPB funding of NPR amounts to only between 1 and 2 percent of NPR’s 2004 budget of $369 million.  NPR in particular doesn’t need our tax dollars anyway. Last November, NPR announced it was receiving a bequest of more than $200 million from the estate of Joan B. Kroc, the widow of the founder of McDonald’s. People are free to contribute even more money. But NPR alienated its own listeners when it dumped veteran host Bob Edwards, who now has a show on XM satellite radio.

In this regard, it is important to note that

  • Sirius Satellite Radio offers 120 channels of news, talk, sports and commercial-free music.

  • XM Satellite Radio offers over 130 channels of music, news, sports and information.

And on television, consider that

  • Comcast basic cable offers almost 100 channels.  With digital cable, one gets more than 200 channels. In total, over 500 channels and programs are available. The “ON DEMAND” feature for Comcast cable enables viewers to obtain access to a library of more than 1,000 programs.

The Bill Moyers Slant

By law, public TV and radio programs supported by the CPB are supposed to adhere to standards of objectivity and balance. But PBS has developed a reputation for staging attacks on conservatives and Christians. 

CPB chairman Tomlinson reportedly commissioned his own study of the bias on the Bill Moyers NOW show.

But other such studies exist. Louis Barbash, formerly a senior program officer at the CPB, analyzed the program and wrote that NOW was “different” than other PBS programs like Firing Line, McLaughlin, To the Contrary and Ben Wattenberg’s Think Tank. They “are independently produced and offered to stations,” while NOW “is part of PBS’s public affairs portfolio, like the NewsHour and Washington Week, receiving slots in the schedule, network promotion and the bulk of its funding from PBS. Moreover, the show was pulled together and its host recruited by PBS President Pat Mitchell.”

He adds, “More importantly, Moyers and NOW have departed from PBS’s traditional, almost obsessive, pursuit of balance and objectivity. The NewsHour, for example, tries to represent both ? sometimes all ? sides of every issue. It airs foreign policy experts who think Iraq has been a catastrophe as well as those who think it’ll turn out for the best, economists who think tax cuts put us on a path to prosperity and those who think they’re milestones on the road to ruin. Mark Shields v. David Brooks. Michael Beschloss v. Richard Norton Smith.

“Public TV’s other pioneering public affairs series, Washington Week, models a different, but equally even-handed, approach: analysis of the week’s events by a panel of journalists, each of whom presents the opposing views on the issue they cover.”

On the other hand, he said that NOW “created its own model ? not so much a forum for contending views as a platform for Moyers’ critique of policy and politics, incisively argued and buttressed with documentary sequences and interviews with mostly concurring voices.”

Barbash found that, “Of NOW’s 19 segments on the war, for example, only four included anyone voicing support for it. In one of the four, a nine-minute segment on the burden the war has imposed on military families, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) got just 41 seconds to say that hard-pressed families receive help from neighbors and families as well as from the government.”

Overall, he found that, “?of the 75 segments over six months that treated controversial issues like the Iraq War, the state of the economy and the corrupting influence of corporate money on politics, only 13 included anyone who spoke against the thrust of the segment. A 17-minute segment that accused the Pentagon of understating U.S. troops’ injuries in Iraq gave a Pentagon spokesman a total of a minute-and-a-half to reply.” See:

Moyers, a former Democratic Party mouthpiece who hosted NOW for three years, used his December 17, 2004, NOW program on PBS to launch a vicious smear of conservatives for succeeding in the media. In comments that Tom Shales of The Washington Post said “may not have helped his own image” as a rational commentator, Moyers flailed away, comparing Pentagon officials to Adolph Hitler and accusing conservative talk radio personalities of using Hitlerian Big-Lie techniques. Moyers began by citing a New York Times story that some military analysts want to deceive the enemy in Iraq by planting misleading stories abroad about U.S. strategy and tactics.

Moyers said, “We have news for them. A former corporal in the German army learned how to do that first. In his gospel of Mein Kampf, the future fuehrer of Nazi Germany wrote that, ‘The great masses of people?will more easily fall victim to a great lie than to a small one.'”

“Which brings us to our first subject,” Moyers continued. He proceeded to call conservative talk radio “a freak show of political pornography” consisting of “lies, distortions, and half-truths?”

But it was the Moyers crew doing the lying. His producers had claimed that Moyers would go “inside the right-wing media machine that the conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks called a ‘dazzlingly efficient ideology delivery system.'”  This quote, which actually appeared in The Weekly Standard, was Brooks’ description of how liberals view conservative-oriented media.

Here’s the full quote: “Wherever Democrats look, they sense their powerlessness. Even when they look to the media, they feel that conservatives have the upper hand. Conservatives think this is ludicrous. We may have Rush and Fox, conservatives say, but you have ABC, NBC, CBS, The New York Times. But liberals are sincere. They despair that a consortium of conservative think tanks, talk-radio hosts, and Fox News?Hillary’s vast right-wing conspiracy?has cohered to form a dazzlingly efficient ideology delivery system that swamps liberal efforts to get their ideas out.”

Notice the phrase “they despair.” This is how Brooks, who himself appears on The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer on PBS, had described a liberal belief about the influence of those outlets. Much of his article was an attempt to understand how liberals and Democrats view political events. Brooks’ only mistake was in neglecting to add PBS to the mix of the liberal outlets.

During a January 9, 2004, interview of Charles Lewis about big money in politics, Moyers briefly mentioned the role of billionaire George Soros, but failed to note that Moyers had served on the board of his Open Society Institute. Federal Election Commission records showed that his wife, Judith Moyers, financially contributed to the campaigns of several prominent Democratic Party politicians. Since she is president of Bill Moyers’ television production company, Public Affairs Television, this is a conflict of interest that his viewers should have been told about.  On one of her FEC records, she is listed as “P.B.S./T.V. executive.”

The March 5, 2004 edition of the NOW with Bill Moyers show on PBS was greeted with high fives at the headquarters of International ANSWER, the front group of the communist Workers World Party. The show featured a segment on “the government’s criminalizing of dissent,” starring a member of the ANSWER steering committee. But it was also interesting for another reason. Moyers served in LBJ’s Administration and was involved in efforts to spy on Johnson’s political opponents and others, including Martin Luther King, Jr. Of course, that wasn’t mentioned on the show.

ANSWER was ecstatic because of the interview with Mara Verheyden-Hilliard. She is a member of the national Steering Committee of the ANSWER Coalition and co-chair of a committee of the National Lawyers Guild, a one-time identified communist front. The theme was that groups of peaceful demonstrators against U.S. foreign policy were being infiltrated by undercover law enforcement agents. This was seen as a return to the bad old days of the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover. Moyers should know something about that, having worked with Hoover’s FBI to dig up dirt for LBJ. But that wasn’t mentioned.

Platform for the ACLU

On the December 17 NOW show, Moyers turned to another current topic?the ACLU’s lawsuits against school districts that want to “teach an alternative to evolution.” Anthony Romero of the ACLU told Moyers that “?teaching alternatives to evolution is about teaching religion in our public schools. And in a country as diverse as this one, and in a country where religious belief is such a core belief for so many Americans, you want to keep the government as far away as we can from involving itself in our most important and private institutions?”

Romero’s statement was false. Teaching alternatives to evolution does not necessarily imply the existence of God or the need for religion. Rather it recognizes the problems with a theory holding that random and natural processes cannot account for the origin and complexity of life.  

The Discovery Institute, for example, focuses on the issue of whether there is any evidence of design in nature, rather than whether there is a designer. Still, its representatives tend to be portrayed in religious terms not only by the ACLU but by the media.

Those who believe in intelligent design or find gaping holes in the theory of evolution frequently encounter a hostile press. The Discovery Institute provided to Accuracy in Media a thick file of complaints about the way their representatives have been treated by the media, especially CPB-subsidized National Public Radio and PBS.

Back in 2001, when PBS aired the seven-part series, Evolution, financed by Microsoft co-founder and billionaire Paul G. Allen, it asked Discovery Institute scientists to appear on the last segment dealing with God and religion. It was a trick. The institute rejected this ploy, saying that its representatives had scientific objections to evolution and that they should be included in the scientific episodes.

PBS went ahead with its one-sided program anyway. In response, the Discovery Institute produced a 152-page viewers’ guide, noting that the series distorts the scientific evidence, ignores scientific disagreements over Darwin’s theory, and misrepresents the theory’s critics.

On April 18, Accuracy in Media sent a detailed three-page letter to NPR’s ombudsman, Jeffrey Dvorkin, about a pattern of bias in coverage of the evolution controversy. We received in response a one and one-half page letter that essentially glossed over all of our substantial criticisms.

Another Smear of Conservatives

In another case, the FBI’s fruitless search for a right-winger as the source of the post 9/11 anthrax attacks led to a scandalous and unfair NPR story suggesting that a Christian group may have sent the anthrax letters to Democratic Senators Patrick Leahy and Tom Daschle. NPR asked the Traditional Values Coalition to respond to concerns that because it had been critical of those Senators, it was behind the biological attacks. The NPR story by David Kestenbaum concerned the status of the FBI investigation and his theory about who may have been responsible. “Two of the anthrax letters were sent to Senators Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy, both Democrats,” Kestenbaum reported. “One group who had a gripe with Daschle and Leahy is the Traditional Values Coalition, which, before the attacks, had issued a press release criticizing the senators for trying to remove the phrase ‘so help me God’ from the oath taken by committee witnesses.” It took NPR a year to apologize for this smear.


NPR tried but ultimately failed to come to grips with its own journalism scandal. A February 14 story on National Public Radio by David Folkenflik alluded to the embarrassing controversy involving NPR’s U.N. correspondent Linda Fasulo. She took money from the pro-U.N. lobby, including Ted Turner’s U.N. Foundation, to write a pro-U.N. book. Fasulo also covers the U.N. for NBC News and MSNBC.

Here’s what Folkenflik reported: “Some conservative media critics say there’s an agenda in the work of freelancer Linda Fasulo. She covers the United Nations for National Public Radio and NBC News. In 2001, the United Nations Foundation gave Fasulo $13,500 to help her finish a book on the U.N. The private advocacy group supports the U.N. with money from liberal media mogul Ted Turner. Fasulo says the foundation never even saw the manuscript before it was published by Yale University Press, but critics say the deal proves she’s too cozy with the U.N. Both NBC News and NPR stand by Fasulo, but NPR spokesman David Umansky says no reporter will be able to accept similar subsidies in the future.”

The figures were wrong. AIM documented that Fasulo received $26,000, despite Fasulo’s refusal to provide the amounts of money she received for the book.

We contacted NPR spokesman Umansky, asking several questions about this:  “Was this a statement you made to NPR? Or was it issued publicly? Was NPR told about these subsidies in advance of our group, Accuracy in Media, raising them as an issue? Was there no prohibition on the acceptance of these subsidies in the past? Has a new ethics code been put into place? What does it say about this? Is NPR aware that Ms. Fasulo also received $11,000 from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund? Is that kind of payment acceptable?”

The NPR News Code of Ethics and Practices requires that its reporters avoid “actual and apparent conflicts of interest or engaging in outside activities, public comment or writing that calls into question our ability to report fairly on a subject.” In Fasulo’s case, she was reporting on the U.N. for NPR as she was accepting money from Ted Turner’s U.N. Foundation to do her pro-U.N. book.

When we failed to receive a response from Umansky, we emailed the NPR ombudsman and got an automated response. Jeffrey Dvorkin, the NPR ombudsman, said that, “Due to the high volume of email, it may not be possible to respond to each individual concern. However, every email is read and forwarded to the appropriate senior manager?”
Eventually we contacted Sue Bruser, Acting Director for Media and Public Relations at NPR. She was very cooperative and informed us that “NPR first learned of the situation you describe from a letter sent to NPR’s ombudsman, Jeffrey Dvorkin.  Linda Fasulo – as you know, a correspondent, not a fulltime employee of NPR – had not informed anyone at NPR that she was writing the book, The Insiders Guide to the U.N.  When Ms. Fasulo was questioned about accepting support from the U.N. Foundation for her book, she responded that no one at any funding group had reviewed her manuscript or attempted to influence her writing.  Ms. Fasulo’s editor at Yale University Press underscored this point.   Additionally, NPR was informed that the money given by the U.N. Foundation was allocated to printing (obviously once the manuscript was edited and approved for publication).”

Bruser added that, “Our code of ethics, which can be found at, makes transparent that when contributors are first assigned to work on a subject, they must disclose to their immediate supervisor any business, commercial, financial or personal interests that might reasonably be construed as being in actual, apparent or potential conflict with their duties.  The ethics policies were officially codified in February 2004, but they – including on conflict of interest – had been followed as practice well before that. Ms. Fasulo did not adhere to this practice, and when it was made clear to her that her behavior was wrong – no correspondent should receive any funding in any way that might be tied in any fashion to the beat covered – she assured NPR that this would not happen again, that she had read the NPR code of ethics and would abide by it.”

That was fine, except that we had documented $26,000 to Ms. Fasulo. When we asked about that, Bruser told us that, “A letter sent to our ombudsman and your article of February 2, that was also sent to us by e-mail, helped to trigger our investigation.  NPR was not aware of the book or its funding prior to this.   Ms Fasulo has assured NPR that she is not now nor will she in the future take support from any kind of advocacy group.”

That’s a good start. But it still seems that Fasulo didn’t tell NPR the whole story about the amount of money she got. And NPR didn’t report the whole story.

Tax Dollars for Far-Left Pacifica

The CPB also puts millions of taxpayer dollars into the Pacifica radio network, a far-left operation known for extremist political propaganda. CPB said it had provided the following amounts to Pacifica stations over the last five years:



FY 2001

FY 2002

FY 2003

FY 2004

FY 2005


 Berkeley, CA

 $ 225,660

 $ 247,766

 $ 214,816

 $ 289,616

 $ 478,160


 North Hollywood, CA

 $ 247,893

 $ 187,690

 $ 187,618

 $ 371,736

 $ 382,427


 Houston, TX

 $   90,672

 $ 105,606

 $ 108,407

 $   79,114

 $   86,296


 New York, NY

 $ 436,382

 $ 433,086

 $ 383,236

 $ 391,021

 $ 489,840


 Washington, DC

 $ 214,555

 $ 232,120

 $ 245,727

 $ 245,824

 $ 262,558

According to the radio network’s own website, “Anarcho”-pacifists created the Pacifica Foundation [which owns the Pacifica stations]. In the 1930s they belonged to groups like the War Resisters League and the Fellowship of Reconciliation. So ardently did they oppose organized violence that they challenged the United States’ entry into World War II, the most popular war in American history.” See:

The article goes on, “The Pacifica Foundation was one of the earliest organizations to question the U.S. role in Vietnam, sponsoring a university teach-in against the conflict in the early 1960s. WBAI in New York City risked its very existence in 1962 by interviewing a former FBI agent who described what he saw during his training. Beginning in the 1970s, Pacifica fearlessly broadcast the voices of the Palestine Liberation Organization to the network’s not always grateful audiences. During the 1980s the voices of Nicaraguans and El Salvadorans struggling against murderous U.S. backed military governments filled the network’s airwaves.”

In regard to the Iraq war, it states, “We must protest that Iraq has not attacked us, that our invasion may cost the lives of tens of thousands of innocent people, and that it could destabilize the region, sparking a generation of bloody regional wars. We must expose this reckless imperial adventure in every way we can, for we are the only network in the United States willing to do so.”

In 1995, when Senator Larry Pressler was seeking to de-fund public broadcasting, he asked NPR officials for the names of NPR employees who had worked for Pacifica. NPR officials, raising the specter of “McCarthyism,” caused so much controversy that Pressler withdrew the request.  But evidence emerged that dozens of staffers from Pacifica had taken jobs at NPR.

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