Accuracy in Media

It’s really not a secret that the Wall Street Journal has been taking taxpayer dollars to produce a television show.  If you read the paper’s op-ed page, you will occasionally see notices about “The Journal Editorial Report,” featuring the members of the Journal’s editorial board, who appear on a weekly public TV program. But when we drew attention to this fact–and questioned why the Journal should benefit from almost $5 million from a federal-funded entity–we received some curious responses.

One person was confused about the Journal’s show, mistakenly thinking that it was on National Public Radio, NPR, when it airs over public television stations.  “As a conservative taxpayer,” he said, “I would agree with you that it would be good to abandon the use of public funds to support NPR but that is not likely to happen. An alternative is to force NPR to balance their political programming to remain funded. Bottom-line for me is I am glad the [Wall Street Journal] is airing on NPR and I will give them a chance to prove that it will not keep them from being critical of NPR when it merits being criticized. As a conservative I want the WSJ editorial content to obtain the widest distribution possible outside of the paper itself.”

His confusion about where the show appears is an indication that he probably has not watched it. Few people do. And yet $5 million is being spent on it. Admittedly, this is a drop in the bucket of the public broadcasting budget. Taxpayers spend $400 million a year on the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which underwrites public TV and radio. But the issue is not only why the Journal, which is part of a rich parent company, Dow Jones, took the money, but why it was offered in the first place.  One Journal writer said directly that it was a “bribe” to stifle conservative criticism of the public broadcasting establishment.

If it was really determined to get on public television, Dow Jones could have sponsored the show directly, paying the $5 million required to get it on the air. That would have been the more conservative and decent thing to do. This is a company that recently paid over half-a-billion dollars for the company that owns the internet site CBS.MarketWatch.

Another person wrote to us saying that he has enough confidence in the integrity of the Journal that their editorial writers would criticize PBS if circumstances warranted it. That may true to some extent. But the criticism would have to end at demands for public broadcasting to give up its taxpayer subsidies.  Otherwise, the Journal Editorial Report would no longer be on the air.

This person went on to say that a long-standing criticism of PBS is that it is slanted left and gives short shrift to conservatives. He added, “Here we have PBS giving a forum to the conservative members of the Wall Street Journal editorial board. I’m not about to applaud PBS because they are still incredibly biased to the left, but, at least, they’ve made a step in the right direction here. Instead of criticizing the Wall Street Journal for tapping into the federal trough, you should be congratulating them for diverting money that otherwise would have been going to some left wing outfit.”

It’s hardly conservative to argue that we should divert federal money from the left to the right. That’s why it’s said that “power corrupts.” Besides, there’s always plenty of money left over for all kinds of liberal programs on PBS and NPR. The principled conservative position is to cut off the federal money to the Journal and all the others. Let them survive in the marketplace. That’s a message the Journal preaches and should practice.

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