NEW YORK - May 27 - National Public Radio, though founded as an alternative media outlet that would "speak with many voices," relies on largely the same range of sources that dominate mainstream commercial news, a new FAIR study has found. Characterized by conservative critics as "liberal" radio, NPR has more Republican than Democratic voices, and male sources outnumber female sources by nearly four to one.
Nine of the top 10 most-frequently used sources on NPR were white male government officials. (Secretary of State Colin Powell was the one exception.) The top seven sources were all Republicans.
FAIR's study looked at every on-air source quoted in June 2003 on NPR's four main news shows: All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Weekend Edition Saturday and Weekend Edition Sunday. Think tank sources and regular commentators were analyzed over a four-month period. Results were compared to those from a 1993 FAIR study of NPR sources.
* PUBLIC VS. ELITE SOURCES: Elite sources-- including government officials, professional experts and corporate representatives-- accounted for 64 percent of all sources. Non-elite sources-- including public interest voices, workers and members of the general public-- made up 31 percent, up from 17 percent in 1993. But more than two-thirds of the non-elite sources were "people on the street," often anonymous sources who tended to be quoted in one-sentence soundbites. Only 7 percent of all sources represented public interest groups, organized citizens groups who articulate a broad range of public viewpoints.
* WOMEN SCARCE: Women made up only 21 percent of all sources--only 2 percentage points more than found in 1993. Women were underrepresented in most subcategories; for example, they made up only 17 percent of journalists interviewed by NPR.
* REPUBLICANS AMPLIFIED: Comparing partisan sourcesincluding government officials, party officials, campaign workers and consultantsRepublicans outnumbered Democrats by more than three to two (61 percent to 38 percent). Even when Democrats controlled the White House and both houses of Congress in FAIR's 1993 study, Republicans outnumbered Democrats 57 to 42 percent.
* THINK TANK SOURCES SKEW RIGHT: Representatives of think tanks to the right of center outnumbered those to the left of center by more than four to one, 62 appearances to 15. Centrist think tanks made 56 appearances.
* COMMENTATOR DIVERSITY IMPROVED: In 1993, all but one of 27 regular commentators were white, and only 15 percent were women. This year, 20 percent were people of color and 24 percent were women. Still, 60 percent of regular commentators were white men, and only one out of 46 (2 percent) was Latino, despite the fact that Latinos make up 13 percent of the U.S. population.
"As the public's radio service, NPR should be held to a higher standard than commercial media outlets," said FAIR's Steve Rendall, the lead author of the study. "If the public can't expect to find itself, in all its diversity, on NPR, where should it look?"
The complete 8-page report can be accessed online at: http://www.fair.org/extra/0405/npr-study.html