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Media Myth: Taxation with Misrepresentation - Executive Summary

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Tax dollars are all the same to the taxpayers who part with them. But the broadcast media have different standards for different dollars. Often, government programs that fit a liberal agenda get the more benign label of “federal funding.” Journalists call attention to spending that casts the Bush administration in a negative light as “taxpayer-funded.”

     The Media Research Center’s Business & Media Institute looked at news coverage on the three major networks in the past year and found the media’s labeling of government projects inconsistent. Some of the reporting themes included:


     Rebuilding from Hurricane Katrina, such as FEMA contracts, was the most-often-mentioned taxpayer expense.

     Liberal priorities such as stem cell research, public education, and foreign aid were characterized as “federally funded” or “government-funded.” However, conservative issues including school vouchers and the Iraq war were called “taxpayer-funded.”

     In addition to attacking the administration on Katrina, CBS even pointed out how much “taxpayer money” the White House chef is paid, and one ABC reporter estimated how much it “cost taxpayers” to fill up the president’s motorcade with gas.

     Reporters called tax breaks a “cost” to taxpayers and the U.S. Treasury, instead of allowing working individuals and businesses to keep more of their own money.