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'Chavez' a Rarity for PBS

May 03, 1997

In his review of the PBS documentary about Cesar Chavez ("Examining the 'Fight in the Fields' and in Chavez," April 16), Oscar Garza says that the program would "provide more fodder for critics of public television who claim the taxpayer-supported network is partial to liberal causes." Has Garza scrutinized the total public affairs lineup on public TV? While a progressive-oriented documentary, like the one on Chavez, appears every blue moon, PBS stations have an overall tilt in favor of conservative and corporate viewpoints. This was documented in a 1993 MacArthur Foundation study (published by FAIR) that analyzed the full range of news, business, talk/interview and documentary programming.

Many PBS stations air at least three regular business shows--"Nightly Business Report," "Adam Smith's Money World," Louis Rukeyser's "Wall Street Week"--but not one weekly program on labor or consumer rights or environmentalism. Many PBS stations air five weekly political talk shows hosted by social or economic conservatives like William Buckley, John McLaughlin and Ben Wattenberg, but none hosted by a progressive. Even PBS' one weekly show aimed at African Americans is hosted by a Republican, Tony Brown. As for the elite-oriented "NewsHour With Jim Lehrer," it is repeatedly praised as "balanced" by right-wing groups that denounce commercial television as too liberal.

Nor is it hard to find PBS documentaries that reinforce the day-to-day conservative and corporate bias. Look no further than Tuesday's "Frontline" program--a one-sided, pro-nuclear power documentary that included not a single scientist critical of the industry.

JEFF COHEN

Executive Director

Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting

New York

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