Republicans and other conservatives have had a longstanding critique of Public Broadcasting for having a liberal bias.
True, National Public Radio’s news programs have feature stories that are predictably left of center in perspective. However, their actual news stories are generally straightforward, as are those of their sister organization, West Virginia Public Radio.
Giving all major sides of a given news story for a statewide radio audience can be challenging. When I was a Capitol correspondent for MetroNews, I had a little over 40 seconds to cover the essentials of a news story.
If I had others speaking out on an issue but could not fit them into my first news package, I followed up with a second story to give these other players their due.
Point being: Except for some occasional discretion as to which news stories to cover, broadcast news reporters have much less room to include their personal, ideological bias.
That is good news for West Virginia Public Broadcasting listeners and viewers, as well as Republican legislators who might have concerns about bias.
Eliminating the state’s annual, modest contribution to Public Broadcasting suggests a certain insecurity, a need to shut down perceived dissenters.
However, continuing the standard level of annual support sends a more positive signal to the public, many thousands of whom enjoy a variety of radio and television programs through Public Broadcasting.
Continued funding for Public Broadcasting shows that the Republican legislative majorities are secure enough to help fund news programming that gives more sides than their own in a newscast.
Moreover, aside from news shows, such continued funding affirms the overwhelmingly positive, educational programs Public Broadcasting provides the entire Mountain State, especially for young West Virginians. Children advance in their language and math skills through TV shows like “Sesame Street.” Older students and adults enjoy radio or TV dramas, as well as musical and theatrical performances that are brought to them directly by Public Broadcasting free of charge.
If the Republicans want to have a better outcome in a news story presented by West Virginia Public Radio or TV, they should do what all smart legislative leaders have done over the years: send articulate, persuasive legislators forward to make their case.
After a while, if they detect any consistent bias in coverage, they should give a detailed presentation for the public’s consideration. The public wants fair coverage and will signal its support if coverage by Public Broadcasting is demonstrably shown to have regular bias. However, as mentioned above, at least in terms of hard news stories, I doubt much bias will be found.
Again, the news stories are too short for much bias to be introduced. A broadcast reporter has enough of a challenge simply fitting in the most salient facts involved in a state news story.
The Republicans now have legislative supermajorities. They have more than enough political strength to allow Public Broadcasting to continue its educational and entertainment programs. Besides, West Virginians get their news from a variety of sources these days. West Virginia Public Broadcasting is but one of those varied sources.
In short, West Virginia Public Broadcasting is no threat to the legislative majority. Let their journalists, educators and entertainers continue to enrich families in all 55 counties.