With thanks to Crawl Across the Ocean:
McGill’s whimsically-named Observatory on Media and Public Policy has released its final reports on how Canada’s major dailies covered the 2006 election campaign. A few interesting points:
- The only leader and party to have a significantly positive or negative slant in the overall coverage? Paul Martin and the Liberals. It netted out to pretty much neutral for the Conservatives, NDP and BQ.
- Compared to vote share in 2004 and 2006, the Liberals were significantly over-represented in “first mentions” â€“ that is, stories where they were the the first party mentioned. Ditto Martin and Stephen Harper for first mentions of leaders. Jack Layton and the NDP were underreported, while the BQ was pretty close to its vote share.
- The big media bias? They’re pro-horse race stories. 44 per cent of the articles the dailies ran were about who was ahead, who had the Big Mo, who was trailing, and the myriad other ways of spinning the same substance-free story. Issue-based stories barely edged them out, accounting for 48 per cent of the articles.
You can also check out the 2004 study at the same location.
To one of our commenters, Kenneth Tomlinson — the disgraced former chair of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting — is an innocent man just trying to get at the truth.
Well, not according to the corporation’s inspector general:
A report by the corporation’s inspector general, sent to Congress on Tuesday, described a dysfunctional organization that appeared to have violated the Public Broadcasting Act, which created the corporation and was written to insulate programming decisions from politics.
The former chairman, Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, who was ousted from the board two weeks ago when it was presented with the details of the report in a closed session, has said he sought to enforce a provision of the broadcasting act meant to ensure objectivity and balance in programming.
But in the process, the report said, Mr. Tomlinson repeatedly crossed statutory boundaries that had set up the corporation as a “heat shield” to protect public radio and television from political interference….
The report said investigators found evidence that Mr. Tomlinson had violated federal law by being heavily involved in getting more than $4 million for a program featuring writers of the conservative editorial page of The Wall Street Journal.
It said he had imposed a “political test” to recruit a new president of the corporation. And it said his decision to hire Republican consultants to defeat legislation violated contracting rules.
Things just brightened a little in the dark and cloudy U.S. airwaves: Republican Kenneth Tomlinson has quit as the chair of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the chief funder of PBS and NPR.
Tomlinson, a Republican, quit shortly before CPB Inspector General Kenneth Konz was to publish a report after investigating his activities, including paying outside researchers to check public programing for liberal bias.
Critics, including broadcasters and congressional Democrats, accused Tomlinson of trying to advance his own conservative agenda in public broadcasting, which is supposed to be non-partisan.
….”The board does not believe that Mr. Tomlinson acted maliciously or with any intent to harm CPB or public broadcasting, and the board recognizes the Mr. Tomlinson strongly disputes the findings in the soon-to-be-released inspector general’s report,” the board said in a statement.
In other words, don’t expect that report to be an exoneration. A Media Matters campaign detailed his systematic assault on the political independence of NPR and PBS.
And while this is a helpful development, it probably won’t change much on its own. From the Reuters report on Tomlinson’s resignation:
Center for Digital Democracy Executive Director Jeff Chester, a critic of Tomlinson, said his departure was unlikely to stop what he described as behind-the-scenes programing pressure on PBS and NPR.
“Board chair Halpern and vice chair Gaines will continue Tomlinson’s legacy to reshape public broadcasting more to the liking of conservatives,” Chester said in a statement.
Veteran Republican Party fund-raisers Cheryl Halpern and Gay Hart Gaines were elected in September as CPB board chairman and vice chair, respectively.
The corporation’s president is former Republican National Committee co-chair Patricia Harrison; the inspector-general’s investigation also looked into her hiring.
Updated: The U.S. State Department is now investigating Tomlinson… and the evidence they’ve shared with the inspector general includes the former chair’s on-the-job e-mail with one Karl Rove.