New National Poll: Public Expects Higher Standards from NPR and other Publicly-Funded Broadcasters

Washington, DC (September 27, 2005) – Seventy-three percent of the general public expects National Public Radio and other publicly-supported broadcasters to be held to higher standards of balance and objectivity than commercial news outlets, according to a public opinion survey conducted for CAMERA by the polling firm Luntz Maslansky Strategic Research. And 70 percent of daily NPR listeners agree that the network should be held to the higher standards.

“The survey also showed that 85 percent of the general public think those responsible – network executives, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and Congress – should guarantee unbiased reporting,” said Andrea Levin, president and executive director of CAMERA – the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America. “And 82 percent of NPR’s daily listeners agree.”

Levin said the results were important since previous surveys indicated Americans generally found public broadcasting highly credible. “It may have been, at least in part, that respondents to earlier polls assumed that their expectations for objectivity and balance were being monitored and guaranteed.”

What respondents hear, or think they hear, may also depend on what they already believe – or have been exposed to before, she pointed out. For example, the survey found that 59 percent of NPR listeners said they were more likely to agree than disagree with network perspectives, while only 29 percent of the general public did.

CAMERA’s Washington Director, Eric Rozenman, presented survey findings to CPB board members at their annual “Open to the Public” hearing yesterday. He noted that the new survey randomly sampled 600 members of the general public and 200 self-described daily NPR listeners.

He reminded CPB leaders that CAMERA has documented anti-Israel bias in NPR’s Middle East reporting going back many years. Segments weighted with anti-Israel speakers; quoting speakers critical of Israel leveling serious charges, then presenting substantially briefer counterpoint; loaded or evasive language; partial identification of critical sources that exaggerates their credibility; and focusing on Israeli reactions while minimizing Arab provocations have contributed to the tilt contribute to the pattern of bias, he said.

What do listeners consider unobjective and imbalanced? Asked about an unnamed news source that airs programs with a preponderance of speakers from one side of a controversial issue, 61 percent of daily NPR listeners found this biased, as did 68 percent of the general public.

Asked about an unnamed news source that would refer to strikes targeting civilians as terrorism carried out by terrorists, but which makes an exception for one country – rarely using the words terror or terrorism in describing such attacks against that country – 74 percent of daily NPR listeners considered this very or somewhat biased, while 72 percent of the general public did so.

CAMERA’s research has shown that NPR is guilty of both the above journalistic transgressions, among others, Rozenman said.

“The survey’s findings, especially regarding the public’s high expectation for balance and objectivity from public broadcasting, should help refocus CPB’s attention on the need for post-broadcast review, according to established journalistic standards, to ensure that NPR meets the statutory requirement for objectivity and balance,” Rozenman told the CPB board.

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