Who Can Claim NPR Is 'Neutral' and Builds Civil Discourse?

At The Huffington Post, Canadian "Wikinomics" author Don Tapscott was pitching how public broadcasting in American is both "neutral" and maintains a civil discourse. Has Tapscott actually watched or listened to PBS or NPR? But there he is, crowing about "neutral" NPR:

In the United States, many conservatives seek out right-wing news/advocacy organizations such as Fox News, RushLimbaugh.com or Glenn Beck. Similarly, many liberals increasingly turn to left-of-center sites such as Truthout.org, Alternet.org or TomPaine.com. More and more of these organizations preach to the converted. And on the right, extremism is taking hold, as we just saw with the Tea Party's willingness to jeopardize the country's credit credibility with the world simply to promote its vision of America. To the Tea Party supporters, even neutral organizations such as NPR are now damned as being liberal. What a contrast to 2005, when a Harris poll found that NPR was the most trusted news source in the U.S.

A strong public broadcaster would help maintain a civil public discourse. It would be not-for-profit, with a large part of its budget coming from the federal government. Yes, reliance on public funding runs the risk of the broadcaster becoming a mouthpiece for the government, as is the case, for example, of many countries in the Middle East. But as the CBC and BBC show, with proper precautions this doesn't have to happen. The broadcaster would be accessible everywhere, independent and hire great journalists.

Never buy someone trying to theorize that the right-wingers have their media, and the left-wingers have their media, but public broadcasting is for the broad majority of the masses. In reality, NPR and PBS appeal largely to liberal, Fox News-despising Democrats with high education and high incomes. They are taxpayer-funded broadcasting for snobbish elites. That's why NPR fired Juan Williams for appearing on "The O'Reilly Factor." It's what the NPR audience wanted.

This might explain why Canadian journalist Chrystia Freeland is highlighted in Tapscott's piece touting to a former Treasury Secretary how more socialist countries let their public broadcasters run the public discussion with "various points of view," as if these networks don't also tilt dramatically to favor the left:

Freeland, an adept journalist, asked Rubin if he ever thought about the role a strong public broadcaster could play in the United States. She referenced the role of the CBC in Canada and the BBC in the UK, not in bringing their respective countries together, but by creating a platform whereby various points of view are expressed and reasonable discussions could occur.

The interview became one of Rubin interviewing Freeland on how the public broadcasters work in Canada and the UK and what were their effects on each country. Was it just that a tiny elite that listened to it and watched it or was it broadly accessed by the general population from different communities within the country?

They discussed the difference between the CBC and its impact compared to the U.S.'s National Public Radio, which is listened to by a much smaller and narrower cross-section of the population. At the end, Rubin ended up concluding that a strong public broadcaster like the CBC or BBC could be a simple yet powerful initiative that could help United States get out of its self-destructive mode.

(HT: Dan Gainor)

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