Collected here are three studies of public affairs TV programs?one of Nightline, one of MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour and the third a round-up of all such programming on PBS?conducted from 1989 to 1993 for the media watchdog group F.A.I.R. (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting). Analyzing the race, gender and class of the guests chosen to engage in public debate in these influential forums, the authors discovered an overwhelming representation of white male "elites" (in the Nightline study, for example, 90% of the guests were men, 83% were white and 73% were government officials or academics). In addition to these three chapters, another three are devoted to their interpretation, arguing that public affairs programs should be more than just platforms for "powerful players"; about the political implications of news media as "lapdog" rather than watchdog of government and business agencies; and who a "top-down" approach to choosing guests will tend to exclude, whether by design or coincidence, and why. The authors warn in the introduction that they have not eliminated recurring points from the studies, and the results, by their uniformity, do grow redundant; but this important book produces from its meticulous research well-reasoned arguments against the presence of any cohesive "liberal bias" in this type of news media, in fact, presenting alarming evidence to the contrary.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Often bashed for being "knee-jerk liberal," the media are a favored target for politicians' ire. Croteau and Hoynes' examination of TV public affairs programs challenges the accuracy of the pols' accusations. The team surveys two influential programs--Nightline and MacNeil-Lehrer News Hour--to demonstrate that a leftist agenda has hardly infiltrated either network or public TV. Looking at program topics and guest lists, the pair convincingly shows that if there are any identifiable political biases, they are tendencies to support American foreign policy and to avoid chastising major corporations. Guests are usually picked from a small pool of "elites"; indeed, their actual expertise is disregarded (e.g., Pat Buchanan appeared on a panel discussing international terrorism). Conservatives may object to Croteau and Hoynes' own liberal bias, but the book is well researched and contains lots of the kind of hard data such critics often fail to cite. Moreover, heeding Croteau and Hoynes' call for more inclusive programming might replace the dull diatribes onscreen today with spirited debates. Aaron Cohen
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