Magazine article Sojourners Magazine

'Balanced' Coverage?

Magazine article Sojourners Magazine

'Balanced' Coverage?

Article excerpt

The Republican campaign to wipe out any vestigial alternative to free-market ideology and culture in the United States has now become at least as broad, comprehensive, and relentless as any Stalinist or Maoist campaign against religion or flee-thinking ever was. In the last few months, this campaign has reached its climax as the heavily armed culture warriors of the Right have moved in on the last nonprofit strongholds in public broadcasting.

According to a May 2 article in The New York Times, there are now political commissars at PBS (they call them "ombudsmen"). These are Party operatives assigned to police the political content of news and public affairs programming. They're looking for "balance." So far that's meant that 30 minutes of fair and independent reporting focused mostly on the environmental and human costs of the flee market (the tragically shrunken post-Moyers NOW program) has to be followed by 30 minutes handed over to the hard-right propagandists of The Wall Street Journal editorial page. Kenneth Tomlinson, the Bush-appointed chair of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, has served notice that the investigative reporting done on the weekly series Frontline will be similarly "balanced" in the future. Eventually all of this will probably mean a flood of corporate-subsidized propaganda that will dwarf the puny efforts of private foundations. PBS will become an official state mouthpiece, the evil twin of the old Tass News Agency in the Soviet Union.

There has, thus far, been no bloodshed in this Cultural Revolution. But when you've got billions of dollars and every commercial cable channel at your disposal, a bullet in the back of the head is needlessly messy. The Forces of the Market can simply eliminate independent brain function while keeping the average American body alive and consuming.

WE MUST ADMIT that the revolutionaries of the Right have been patient. Their campaign for media hegemony makes Mao's Long March look like a 40-yard dash. It began almost 25 years ago, in the Reagan era, with a wave of media deregulation that trashed limits on commercial minutes per hour and broadcast license requirements for public service and political fairness. In the past decade, the Party has achieved its goal of repealing meaningful restrictions on monopoly ownership of media outlets and mounted crippling attacks on the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities. …

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