Stelter Paints Far-Left Fox-Bashers as Harmless 'Public Interest' 'Media Reform Group'

Not content with its front-page drumbeat of stories related to the 'News of the World' hacking scandal, the Times keeps uncovering multiple angles of attack against Rupert Murdoch's media empire News Corp. Media reporter Brian Stelter made the front of Wednesday's Business Day by relaying threats from the hard left – or rather 'progressive activists and public interest groups' – that want to break up Murdoch's right-leaning stable of newspapers and networks: 'Scandal Stirs U.S. Debate On Big Media.'

When the Times, a division of the New York Times Co., uses the term "Big Media," it's presumably not including NYT Co.'s two major newspapers (including the Times' international edition), its 16 regional newspapers, or the many web sites it owns. NYT Co. sold its nine local television stations in 2007.

Free Press is a hard-left 'media reform' group run by Craig Aaron, the former editor of far-left magazine In These Times. Free Press has received funding from left-wing media maven George Soros's Open Society Institute. It has taken liberal stands mergers of media companies like Comcast and NBC Universal and net neutrality.

Yet Stelter and other Times reporters rarely if ever inform their readers about the group's ideology, merely calling FP a'public interest group,' or one that 'calls itself nonpartisan' as Stelter did on May 24, 2010: 'A Site Collects Complaints About Media.' Without commenting on the obvious tilt of the "complaints" (Fox News and Sarah Palin), Stelter blandly stated: 'It is regularly described as a liberal group.' Not in the Times it isn't.

Stelter couldn't even bring himself to use the L-word on Wednesday, using the 'progressive' euphemism instead.

Progressive activists and public interest groups have long blasted Rupert Murdoch and his News Corporation for political biases. But in recent weeks they have seized on a new and more tangible reason to call for the revocation of his TV licenses and the breakup of his company: the British hacking scandal.

The scandal, they say, is an opportunity to raise awareness of - and, they hope, objection to - media consolidation at a time when the American government is reviewing the rules that govern how much companies like News Corporation, Comcast and the Walt Disney Company can own.


But media reform groups like Free Press, which advocates for more diversity in media ownership, say their interest extends far beyond any single investigation.

Stelter devoted several paragraphs to the Free Press side, offering free publicity for 'the most popular feature on the Free Press Web site' from group president Craig Aaron, while leaving off his left-wing background.

Proponents of media mergers say such combinations improve consumer access to news, information and entertainment. They say the Internet has fostered competition, creating new choices for consumers.

Groups like Free Press say the opposite - that such combinations reduce the country's journalistic corps and decrease the diversity of voices in print and on the air. Aaron said he sensed that most Americans were aware of big media brands like Fox and NBC but unaware that their owners also controlled dozens of other brands. Media companies present an obstacle to awareness: 'Most media outlets don't like to cover themselves.'

But 'when people find out just how much those companies own, they are worried about it and want to know more,' he said, adding that the who-owns-what chart was the most popular feature on the Free Press Web site.

And reporter Edward Wyatt fawned that Free Press was 'a nonprofit group that often advocates for consumers on media and telecommunications issues' in a March 27 story.

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