The NewsHour is allegedly a “low-key, evenhanded [newscast], inclusive of all perspectives.
FAIR studied NewsHour’s guestlist from October 2005 through March 2006 (six months) To evaluate NewsHour’s claim to evenhandedness and commitment to the public interest. Here’s what Extra found:
At a time when a large proportion of the U.S. public already favored withdrawal from Iraq, “stay the course” sources outnumbered pro-withdrawal sources more than 5-to-1. In the entire six months studied, not a single peace activist was heard on the NewsHour on the subject of Iraq.
Here are the other major findings of FAIR’s study:
At the beginning of the Iraq War, a FAIR study (Extra!, 5–6/03) of six national news shows including the NewsHour found that they featured war supporters almost 24 times as often as war critics: 71 percent of sources took an explicit pro-war stance, vs. 3 percent expressing opposition. Despite PBS’s mandate to offer an alternative to commercial media, the NewsHour in that study fell closely in line with its commercial competition, with 66 percent pro-war sources vs. 3 percent antiwar.
The current study found the NewsHour to have a continued aversion to antiwar voices. During the period studied, polls found a large proportion of the U.S. public to be in favor of withdrawing U.S. troops; according to the CBS News poll (10/3–5/05, 1/5–8/06, 1/20–25/06), those in favor of having “U.S. troops leave Iraq as soon as possible” ranged from 59 percent to 44 percent, while those who supported keeping troops there “as long as it takes” fluctuated between 50 percent and 36 percent.
But watching the NewsHour, viewers might think there was almost no debate on the issue, let alone a sizable constituency favoring withdrawal. Of the 276 NewsHour sources who discussed Iraq, only 53 expressed an opinion on the subject of U.S. troop withdrawal, and only eight of those sources argued in favor of a timetable for withdrawal. (None argued for immediate withdrawal.) Rep. John Murtha (D.-Penn.) accounted for five of those pro-withdrawal sources, meaning only three different voices were heard on the NewsHour advocating withdrawal.