- - Sunday, June 28, 2015

Prime Minister David Cameron is a brave man. He has undertaken to take control and oversight of the prestigious BBC, the government broadcasting system, away from the arrogant elites and put the oversight into the hands of the people who pay for it.

The noise from the dispossessed elites will be shrill and loud, but Mr. Cameron has the wind in his sails. Criticism has been rising, not only from the usual skeptical voices, but from within and from growing numbers of listeners and viewers who recognize bias and prejudice when they hear and see it.

Snark and bias is often aimed at Israel and on behalf of Israel’s enemies in the Middle East, too. But there’s more. The BBC has suffered tabloid scandals within. One of the prominent stars of its programming for children is dealing now with credible accusations of child molesting.

The criticisms of political and cultural bias by the BBC are much like those against National Public Radio in the United States. Critics of NPR point to the relatively new mid-afternoon program, “Here and Now,” a review of public events similar to the popular commuter favorite, “All Things Considered.” The programs drip with left-wing bias and contempt for those who disagree with the program’s point of view.

In Australia, Prime Minister Tony Abbott is dealing with similar accusations against the government-funded Australian Broadcasting Company, which presented a program not long ago moderated by a notorious pro-jihadi activist. The display of open propaganda for jihadi causes dismays even some of the network’s most devoted listeners.

Most journalists are liberals, which should be irrelevant to the discussion, and would be if these journalists could keep their personal views and instincts — we all have them — under control. But many journalists can’t do that. Reporting by NPR and the Public Broadcasting System has been openly slanted over the past few years to defend the Obama administration. The problem is not a conspiracy to cook the news, but a consensus of revealed truth that works to that end.

In the face of attempts to cut PBS and NPR loose from government funding, the networks argue that their government subsidy is only minimal. If that is so, they could easily manage without it. The fact is that with contributions of tax-free foundations, public radio and TV receive as much as 40 percent of their revenue from government — national, regional and local — and “non-governmental organizations. That’s taxpayer money. NPR is a solid and professional news-gathering organization, capable of sitting on its own ample bottom, supported by its adoring audience.

With a growing presence of “public-service announcements” (they’re called “commercials” on the other networks) and earnings from the sale of toys and other items, government-supported radio and television has grown fat and comfortable, paying enormous salaries to executives and administrators. The warp in the presentation of the news has grown steadily more evident.

If they continue to take government money, PBS and NPR should submit to monitoring by an independent and effective monitoring panel, as David Cameron has prescribed for the BBC. It’s the fair price of government subsidy.

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