GRAND FORKS-Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., has sent a letter to executives at three major broadcast news companies with questions on media bias-his latest effort to assess media outlets' fairness.
The letter is addressed to top executives at three major broadcast companies: ABC, CBS, and NBCUniversal, and includes nearly a dozen questions pressing them on their coverage of the election, President Donald Trump's transition and presidency and newsroom standards.
A sampling of the questions includes:
• Do you believe your coverage of Hillary Clinton's candidacy was as critical as your coverage of Donald Trump's candidacy?
• Do your current efforts to aggressively cover the Trump administration match the approach you took in the early days of the Obama administration?
• Do your news operations have policies in place to analyze impartiality on news reporting?
Cramer has argued since November that the use of public broadcast resources justifies his interest in ensuring that whatever goes over federal airwaves is fair and objective and has also said his concerns are with national and not local news outlets.
Cramer first announced his intent to call for hearings on broadcast media bias in early November, just days before the election, drawing accusations that his announcement was politically motivated. In late December, he referred to the move as a "shot across the bow" to broadcast media networks that he believed had led to more favorable coverage.
Because of that change in tone-and because he believed the new administration would give his questions heft-he opted to send Friday's questionnaire in lieu of requesting congressional hearings.
"Some may view these questions to be based on conservative viewpoints. They would be right," Cramer wrote in his Friday letter. "Half of the American people call themselves conservative, yet a majority of them receive your network news coverage for free, over the airwaves, through federally allocated spectrum dedicated to national broadcasting."
Cramer's claim that half of Americans self-identify as conservative is based on votes in the recent election, his staff said in an email, though according to data released by Gallup in January, the number is closer to 36 percent.
The letter is not addressed to Fox Television Stations Group, which received his November letter outlining his intention to call for hearings along with NBCUniversal, CBS and ABC.
Al Tompkins, a senior faculty member with the Poynter Institute, a Florida-based center for journalism, argued that "bias is in the eye of the beholder," and referred to a question on broadcasters' need for the federal spectrum a "veiled threat."
"What would you have media do? Would you have journalists not critically assess the president?" he said, adding that members of every party complain about media bias. "This is a way for him to get some press without saying very much except 'We all know you have an agenda, and I'm on top of it and I'm watching you.' "
Cramer was unable to be reached for comment.