PRESS RELEASE: CAMERA Welcomes CPB Review of NPR’s Middle East Coverage

BOSTON (May 19) — Having long urged substantive review of concerns about National Public Radio’s coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflict, CAMERA welcomes CPB’s interest in a rigorous analysis of the subject. Despite the existence of a 1967 statute requiring that the Corporation for Public Broadcasting dispense tax funds only to those networks providing “strict adherence to objectivity and balance in all programs or series of programs of a controversial nature,” documentation of NPR’s bias had not been seriously addressed previously.

CAMERA Executive Director Andrea Levin stressed that any allegations by NPR of political meddling or censorship are either ill-informed or disingenuous. “NPR’s top executives should welcome, and cooperate with, efforts to eliminate any sort of bias, which can only improve the quality of the network’s broadcasts. This is something everyone should support,” she said.

Levin urged that focus turn to the specifics of coverage — the accuracy of reports and the balance in presenting speakers and issues. “The question is does National Public Radio provide accurate, balanced and complete coverage on a very ‘controversial’ issue? Our research has shown for years a striking deviation from the norms of journalism and, in particular, a penchant for skewing coverage toward a Palestinian view of events.”

Levin noted that repeated studies of NPR’s coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflict over the past five years have, for instance, revealed a disproportionate reliance on Arab and pro-Arab speakers. An in-depth study from the fall of 2000 found Arab and pro-Arab speakers were given almost twice as much air time as Israeli and pro-Israel speakers. Moreover, there were 41 programs in which only Arab or pro-Arab speakers were heard and just 24 devoted exclusively to Israeli or pro-Israel voices. Segments excluding any Israeli perspective often included extreme allegations against that country, including charges that Israel is a “Jim Crow” nation that should be done away with in its “apartheid” form.

Another study of two months in the summer of 2002 revealed the same sharp tilt. Again, serious allegations, including one-sided claims of Israeli brutality, were leveled in segments that excluded Israeli voices altogether.

Studies in 2003 confirmed the continuing pattern of bias. A close review of the period of January through March paralleled a supposed self-critique done by the network itself. These self-exonerating critiques posted on the NPR Web site consistently claim few if any problems in the coverage. Yet NPR omitted 40% of the relevant transcripts from their first survey and presented false data about their coverage, such as the claim that “Arab journalist Rami Khouri was interviewed twice.” Actually, Khouri who is a network favorite and often a strident critic of Israel, was interviewed six times.

Bias has persisted on the network up to the present as CAMERA has continued to document in detail.

“What Chairman Tomlinson has proposed is evolutionary, not revolutionary,” CAMERA’s Associate Director Alex Safian added. “In the past, to meet the Congressional mandate for objectivity and balance CPB created an Open to the Public initiative, it established a toll-free listener comment line, it solicited and tabulated for Congress e-mails and letters from listeners, and it held public meetings to establish a code of ethics. The steps now proposed,” observed Safian, “are part of this continuing process to meet the original mandate of Congress that public broadcasting – including NPR – reflect the highest standards of journalism.”