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Correcting for Bias; How Public Radio Can Better Serve All Americans

House Committee on Energy and Commerce

May 8, 2024

Good morning. Thank you Chair Griffith and Ranking Member Cator. I’m Howard Husock, Senior Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. I also have a background in public broadcasting. I was honored to serve as member of the Board of Directors of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and as a documentary film producer at Boston public broadcaster WGBH, where I was also a reporter and manager for a nightly news program. Permit me to note not for vanity but for as relevant to my standing to address you that my work was recognized with a national News and Documentary Emmy award and the RFK award for coverage of the disadvantaged.

I begin my testimony with a reminder of where public broadcasting began—with the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967. Of particular relevance to the current situation at National Public Radio is the mandate from Subpart D, Section 396. Public broadcasting, both radio and television, should, it says, be responsive to
the interests of people both in particular localities and throughout the United States.”
It is here specifically where National Public Radio has come to fall short.

According to the nonpartisan Pew Research Center’s survey research, 87 percent of listeners describe themselves as Democrats, while only 12 percent as Republicans. In contrast, the major commercial network newscasts are close to 50-According to the media tracking firm Cision, only one of the top 10 most popular NPR affiliates is found in the South or Southwest. One NPR slide deck boasts that its programming reaches “cultural connoisseurs”, As Uri Berliner put it so well, “Our news audience doesn’t come close to reflecting America. It’s overwhelmingly white and progressive, and clustered around coastal cities and college towns.” Pew reports that NPR’s audience declined by 6% between 2021 and 2022. This is not the mark of a “national” taxpayer-supported program service.

Read the full testimony here.