BY INVITATION ONLY by David Croteau

BY INVITATION ONLY

How the Media Limit Political Debate
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Three studies of public affairs television, performed for a media watchdog group, challenge allegations that the medium has a liberal bias. In studies conducted from 1989 to 1993 for Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), sociologists Croteau and Hoynes statistically analyze the content of Nightline, The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour, and PBS's general evening programming. Their controversial 1992 study of Nightline, which examined the program over a 40-month period, found that guests were overwhelmingly white (92%), male (89%), and conservative (Henry Kissinger and Jerry Falwell each appeared more than 12 times, while Jesse Jackson was the only liberal featured more than twice). The guest list on MacNeil/Lehrer's nightly ``alternative'' to network news was even less varied. Perhaps most important is the examination of PBS's evening programming during six months in 1992. Even on documentaries, which formed the basis for many conservative claims about PBS bias, male sources outnumbered female three to one, with ethnic, working-class, and gay sources rare or nonexistent. Croteau (Virginia Commonwealth Univ.; Politics and the Class Divide, not reviewed) and Hoynes (Vassar Coll.; Public Television for Sale, not reviewed) say that television news lacks appropriate representation of its audience. Public affairs programs overwhelmingly offer the views of industry or government figures, while representatives of consumer, labor, and environmental organizations are marginalized. Analysis tends to emphasize ``the political game,'' Croteau and Hoynes contend, instead of the larger consequences of political decisions. Reasons for this narrow focus, in their view, include cost pressures and an ethos that leads journalists to seek partnership with--rather than professional distance from--their powerful sources. Generating more questions than it can answer, this slender, provocative work may play a central role in renewed debate over funding for public television in a Republican-dominated Congress.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 1-56751-045-0
Page count: 250pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 1994