NPR and PBS Anti-Iranian Propaganda
by Stephen Lendman
Both National Public Radio and Public Broadcasting serve corporate and imperial interests. They’re called public to conceal their agenda.
Critics ridicule NPR as National Pentagon or Petroleum Radio for good reason. It’s true as well for PBS. Calling it Propaganda Public Broadcasting more accurately explains its mandate.
Listeners and viewers lose out. Those supporting both monetarily are cheated. Each receives generous government and corporate funding. In return, they know what’s expected and don’t disappoint.
Founded in 1970 as an independent, private, non-profit member organization of US public radio stations, NPR promised to be an alternative to commercial broadcasters by “promot(ing) personal growth rather than corporate gain (and) speak with many voices, many dialects.”
Those promises long ago were abandoned. NPR’s indistinguishable from other corporate media sources. It’s corrupted like the rest. Consider its former head, Kevin Klose, its current president emeritus.
He was president from December 1998 – September 2008, then CEO from 1998 – January 2009. Earlier he was US propaganda director as head of Voice of America (VOA), Radio Liberty, Radio Free Europe, Radio Free Asia, Worldnet Television, and the anti-Castro Radio/TV Marti. As a result, he fit seamlessly in his new role.
Corporate executive Gary Knell is current president and CEO. NPR’s anti-populist tradition continues, disserving its 34 million listeners daily.
Created by the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) calls itself “a private, nonprofit corporation created by Congress…and is the steward of the federal government’s investment in public broadcasting.”
“It helps support the operations of more than 1,100 locally-owned and-operated public television and radio stations nationwide, and is the largest single source of funding for research, technology, and program development for public radio, television and related online services.”
Like NPR, it’s heavily corporate and government funded, and provides similar services in return. Under George Bush, former Voice of America director Kenneth Tomlinson was chairman of CPB’s Board of Governors. He lasted until an internal 2005 investigation forced him out for malfeasance.
Bush appointee Patricia Harrison now heads the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. An insider like other PBS and NPR officials, she earlier co-chaired the Republican National Committee. In 2001, she served as Assistant Secretary of State for Education and Cultural Affairs under Colin Powell.
On January 17, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) headlined, “PBS, NPR Try to Defend Iran Distortions,” saying:
Just Foreign Policy’s Robert Naiman pointed fingers at both organizations for saying one thing, then doing another, as well as suppressing and distorting truth. It’s standard media scoundrel policy.
On January 10, FAIR criticized PBS’ NewsHour for deceptive Iran reporting. Anchor Margaret Warner began, saying:
“The Iranian government insists that its nuclear activities are for peaceful energy purposes only, an assertion disputed by the US and its allies.”
She then quoted Panetta, saying:
“We know that they’re trying to develop a nuclear capability, and that’s what concerns us. And our red line to Iran is, do not develop a nuclear weapon.”
Panetta also explained precisely the opposite, saying:
“Are they trying to develop a nuclear weapon? No.”
PBS omitted it on air. Even ombudsman Michael Getler admitted:
“I think FAIR makes a good journalistic catch in calling attention to the fuller quote by Panetta on CBS. It was a very brief and clear statement by the Defense Secretary on an important point about whether Iran is actually developing a nuclear weapon.”
Also entirely omitted was the latest March 2011 US intelligence assessment. It clearly said no evidence reveals an Iranian nuclear weapons development program.
That news should have been highlighted. It was ignored. Incendiary rhetoric substituted. Viewers were deceived. PBS betrayed them. The NewsHour does it repeatedly on major issues. So does NPR.
Panetta’s omitted comment broke from the usual anti-Iranian propaganda. “That’s precisely what made it newsworthy,” said FAIR. “PBS seems to think its viewers should have to read between the lines in order to arrive at the accurate assessment about Iran’s nuclear program they left on the cutting room floor.”
NewHour’s foreign affairs and defense editor, Mike Mosettig agreed, saying:
“It would have been better had we not lopped off the first part of Panetta’s quote.”
Nonetheless, Getler believes it’s “dishonest” to call PBS unfair, saying:
NewsHour viewers and others following the issue “would draw from the portion of the Panetta quote (used) that Iran does not have a nuclear weapon but they are developing a “nuclear capability”….
In fact, no evidence proves it. Claiming it is deceptively false. At issue is maliciously vilifying Iran, stoking fear, and manipulating viewers to think war, if planned, is justified.
Moreover, ombudsman apologies don’t cut it. Neither does Mosettig’s. Firing the host and changing program policy’s needed. Instead, one deceptive report follows another. The more viewers watch, the less they know. That’s precisely the idea. Treat them like mushrooms – well-watered, in the dark, scared, and willing to support imperial crimes.
It’s standard NPR policy as well. For example, reporter Tom Gjelten said “the goal for the US and its allies (is) to convince Iran to give up a nuclear weapons program.”
Like Gjelten, NPR ombudsman Edward Schumacher-Matos twisted truth, saying:
“The story didn’t say or imply that Iran has a nuclear weapons program. As Bruce Auster, the senior editor for national security, notes, ‘The story was about how the sanctions are designed to prevent Iran from having a nuclear weapons program, which automatically suggests it may not have one.’ ”
False and Schumacher knows it.
Moreover, why are sanctions imposed, especially illegal ones targeting a nonbelligerent nation pursuing a commercial nuclear program like dozens of other countries in Europe, the Americas, Asia, and Africa? In addition, Middle East nations Egypt and the United Arab Emirates plan their own.
FAIR said the following:
“Does NPR really think that the best way to inform its listeners is to assume that when people hear a report about forcing Iran to ‘give up a nuclear weapons program,’ (they’ll automatically) fill in the blanks (and) arrive at an entirely different (conclusion).”
“That every time you hear something about Iran’s ‘nuclear weapons program,’ (it’s) code for ‘the-nuclear-weapons-program-that-may not exist-since-there-is-no-evidence” proving it?
“For good measure,” added FAIR, “the ombud throws in another defense (saying) the ‘quote carefully refers to ‘a’ program – using the indefinite article – and not the definite ‘its’ or ‘the’ program.’ ”
In other words, NPR listeners should be astute enough to know the word “a” refers to a possible non-existing program. They should also know NPR obfuscates, deceives, lies, and represents the same government and corporate interests as other major media scoundrels.
Ergo, they should tune out and choose other sources for real news and information. The same goes for PBS. Both function as propaganda services. Their mandate is suppressing truth and full disclosure. In the process, they disgrace themselves.
Analysis of PBS NewsHour Guests
In October 2010, FAIR published a report titled, “Taking the Public Out of Public TV,” saying:
PBS’ NewsHour “fail(s) to live up to its mission to provide an alternative to commercial television, to give voice to those ‘who would otherwise go unheard,’ and help viewers to ‘see America whole, in all its diversity…”
In fact, NewsHour’s guests are 80% male and 82% white. Moreover, government, military, corporate, and other elites are regularly featured. Since 2006, women of color decreased by a third to 4% of sources used.
In fact, women and people of color most often appear through “people on the street” soundbites, not authoritative analysts or spokespeople interviewed live.
“Viewers were five times as likely to see guests representing corporations (than) public interest groups,” including labor, consumers and environmental organizations.
Democrats outnumbered Republicans, but latter ones dominated longer format segments. Of course, both parties represent America’s duopoly, depriving voters of alternatives.
During the 2010 Mexico Gulf oil spill disaster, industry representatives outnumbered environmental ones over four to one.
On Afghan war segments, anti-war and human rights activists were excluded.
FAIR explained that Liberty Media Corporation owns “a controlling stake in the NewsHour since 1994. CEO John Malone said “nobody wants to go out and invent something and invest hundreds of millions of dollars of risk capital for the public interest.”
Yet viewers donate “public dollars.” Moreover, former PBS president Ervin Duggan declared NewsHour “ours and ours alone.”
So-called “Public Broadcasting” very much is commercial. It also sold its Nightly Business Report to a private company and has various corporate sponsors. So does NPR.
Analysis of NPR Guests
In mid-2004, FAIR published a report titled, “How Public Is Public Radio?” saying:
Four news programs were studied – All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Weekend Edition Saturday, and its counterpart Sunday program.
In June 2003, “every on-air source quoted” was recorded. “Each source was classified by occupation, gender, nationality and partisan affiliation. In total, 2,334 sources were reviewed in 804 stories.
FAIR also examined NPR’s most frequently used think tanks and commentators. Those appearing on the same programs from May through August 2003 were included.
Elites “dominated NPR’s guest-list.” Those from government, business, and similar professional categories accounted for nearly two-thirds on air.
Current and former government officials comprised the largest group, including current and former military ones. MSM journalists were also featured from The New York Times, Washington Post and similar sources.
Populist voices were heard but marginalized. Like PBS, most often they appeared in soundbite “people on the street” appearances.
Moreover, public interest group spokespeople appeared only 7% of the time. They ranged from conservative to liberal. Most often, they appeared in “domestic policy stories.” Workers and organized labor were almost entirely shut out. Corporate representatives appeared “23 times more often.”
In addition, women were “dramatically underrepresented,” especially as experts.
Accusations about NPR’s alleged liberal bias are baseless. FAIR’s study proved it.
“For a public radio service intended to provide an independent alternative to corporate-owned and commercially driven mainstream media,” NPR struck out. So did PBS. They still do.
Tune them out and go elsewhere for real news, information, and analysis.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.