An outgrowth of National Educational Television, the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) is a nonprofit TV network composed of 354 stations in the United States, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, and American Samoa. With financial support from large liberal philanthropies like the Carnegie Corporation of New York, and the Ford Foundation, and PBS was established in 1969 and commenced broadcasting in October 1970. Aiming “to create content that educates, informs and inspires,” the network's programming, which consists predominantly of educational and artistic presentations, reaches almost 117 million people through television and nearly 20 million people online each month.
Notwithstanding the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967's requirement for "strict adherence to objectivity and balance in all programs ... of a controversial nature," the content of PBS programming generally has reflected a liberal-to-left political slant ever since the network's inception. As the Capital Research Center reports, “most PBS news programs are little more than left-wing agitprop”; PBS’s “flagship public-affairs series, Frontline, typically focuses on “corporate malfeasance” and “political intrigue”; the “human-interest stories on Independent Lens and P.O.V. are politically correct lamentations on social oppression or celebrations of 'diversity'”; the science program Nova “frequently bemoans man’s destructive interference with nature”; and the series NOW, hosted by David Brancaccio, “is dedicated to blaming corporate America for every crisis and targeting politicians and big media for every cover-up.” Brent Bozell of the Media Research Center puts it this way: “The left maintains an iron grip on PBS.”
Bill Moyers, president of the Schumann Center for Media and Democracy, was a prominent host and producer of various PBS programs from 1970 through his retirement in 2004. Toward the end of Moyers' career, approximately 30 PBS affiliates stopped airing his partisan show NOW (which he hosted before David Brancaccio) during the network's pledge drives, partly out of fear that the program's unmistakable bias would alienate many potential donors. NOW had also become an ethical embarrassment because Moyers, without informing his audience, had used his taxpayer-subsidized show to promote guests from at least 16 leftist organizations that had received some $4.8 million in grants from the Schumann Center.
PBS's political bias has been evident in many of its high-profile, special productions over the years. The 2001 documentary Enemies of War, for instance, recounts the 1980s civil war in El Salvador. While denigrating the elected anti-Communist Salvadoran government that was backed by the Reagan administration and was fighting against Marxist terrorists from neighboring Nicaragua, the film lauds the efforts of those who “halted U.S. involvement” in the region and thereby helped El Salvador “generat[e] peace instead of war.” Praised effusively in the film is Jim McGovern, the current Massachusetts congressman who in the Eighties was a congressional aide opposed to Reagan’s efforts.
In 2005, PBS broadcast the three-hour documentary series Heaven on Earth: The Rise and Fall of Socialism. A PBS synopsis of this production described socialism as “the vision that life could be lived in peace and brotherhood if only property were shared by all and distributed equally, eliminating the source of greed, envy, poverty and strife.”
Other notable, politically charged programs which PBS has aired include: Alcatraz Is Not an Island, about the 1969 takeover and occupation of Alcatraz Island by American Indian activists; Affluenza, which explores “the high social and environmental costs of materialism and over-consumption”; The Good War and Those Who Refused To Fight It, about conscientious objectors who chose not to take part in combat during World War II; and Islam: Empire of Faith, a historically inaccurate production that whitewashes the more violent and intolerant aspects of the Muslim faith.
In April 2007, PBS shelved a documentary titled Islam vs. Islamists: Voices from the Muslim Center, which examines how moderate American Muslims have struggled to resist Islamic militancy. Frank Gaffney, Jr., co-producer of the film and president of the Center for Security Policy, asserts that PBS suppressed the film because its bluntness did not advance the network’s multicultural agenda which called for programming that was “more flattering to the Islamists.”
PBS receives the bulk of its funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a nonprofit, private entity that was created by Congress in 1967 and whose annual budget is derived almost entirely from federal grants.
Another key PBS supporter is the PBS Foundation, which was established in 2004 “to seek, cultivate, and receive philanthropic gifts [for PBS] at the national level.”