Center for Media and Public Affairs

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The Center for Media and Public Affairs (CMPA) is a U.S.-based tax-exempt nonprofit 501(c)(3) media watch organization. On its website, CMPA claims to be politically neutral: "The Center for Media and Public Affairs (CMPA) is a nonpartisan research and educational organization which conducts scientific studies of news and entertainment media. CMPA's goal is to provide an empirical basis for ongoing debates over media coverage and impact through well-documented, timely, and readable studies.[1]

CMPA also runs the Statistical Assessment Service, described on the front page of its Web site as a sister organization, which is considered a front organization.


The Center for Media and Public Affairs was founded in the mid 1980s by S. Robert Lichter and Linda Lichter.[2] According to, "the seed money for [the] center was solicited by the likes of Pat Buchanan and Pat Robertson".[3]


Foundation funding

Media Transparency documents that between 1986 and 2005 CMPA received 55 grants totaling $2,960,916 (unadjusted for inflation).[4] The data reveals that the overwhelming proportion of CMPA's funding comes from conservative foundations.

The funding information, covering 1986-2009, lists the following donors (note: all figures are unadjusted for inflation):

Thus, out of the total of $3,323,416 in foundation grants, nearly all of it ($2,693,916) came from just four sources: the John M. Olin, Scaife, and Smith Richardson foundations. In other words, CMPA received 81% of its foundation funding from those four donors. Here is a sample of other right-wing causes funded by these 3 donors, as listed by their respective SourceWatch articles:

According to Salon journalist Joe Conason, the availability of this information does not indicate an openness on the part of the Center for Media and Public Affairs. In a Jan 2003 exchange of views with Lichter, Conason said "The IRS form 990 returns filed by [Lichter's] center redacts the names of all the individuals and organizations that contribute to it, thereby concealing them from public scrutiny. But the watchdogs at Media Transparency have collated the 990 returns filed by the conservative foundations, which disclose their contributions to Lichter's outfit."[3]

As at November 2010, the CMPA website contains no information about the Center's sources of funding.[5]

Total Recent Funding

In its 2008 Annual return to the Internal Revenue Service, CMPA reported that for that year it had total revenue of $479,390 which came in the form of contributions gifts and grants, except for $3,237.[6]

CMPA's IRS return reports that the group's revenue for the preceding four years were as follows:

  • 2004: $174,459
  • 2005: $393,396
  • 2006: $424,387
  • 2007: $393,846
  • 2008: $479,390

CMPA’s 2008 ElectionNewsWatch Project

On February 1, 2008, CMPA issued a news release lauding the election coverage of Fox News. A CMPA concluded "FOX stands out for having the heaviest and most issue-oriented election coverage. ... FOX was also twice as substantive as the broadcast networks. Almost one-third of all stories on FOX (30%) dealt with policy issues, nearly double the proportion (16%) on the networks. FOX also carried less coverage of the horse race and candidate tactics than any of broadcast networks."[7]

"Conservative-Funded Study: Fox News Gives Most Balanced Coverage"

The Huffington Post reported in December of 2007 that "A study released this month by the Center for Media and Public Affairs (CMPA) at George Mason University found that Fox News Channel's evening coverage was more "balanced" than that of the broadcast networks." Yet, one only had to look at the money behind the study to see that the "results" were tainted from the start.[8]

Criticism of PBS in 1992

According to a Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR) research memo, a 1992 study of PBS by the Center for Media and Public Affairs concluded: "On the social and political controversies addressed by PBS documentaries across a full year of programs, the balance of opinion tilted consistently in a liberal direction."[2]

However, FAIR points out that the study excluded, on rather vague grounds, some of PBS's most conservative output. This included "talkshows such as William F. Buckley, Jr.'s Firing Line and Morton Kondracke's American Interests, news reports like the MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour, and business programs like Louis Rukeyser's Wall $treet Week. The Center claims this is to ensure 'a group of programs that were similar in style and content, to maximize the comparability of judgments.'"

According to the FAIR memo, these shows were the ones "most often criticized for having a conservative slant - programming that takes up more of the PBS schedule than the documentaries that the Center's study is limited to. Firing Line and American Interests - programs underwritten by the Center's biggest funders--provided approximately 50 hours of programming a year between them."[2]

Criticism of Fahrenheit 9/11

In June 2004, the CMPA's media director, Matthew Felling, waded into the debate on Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 with the following comments: "Of course, this movie is going to be Michael Moore's version of what he thinks President Bush is up to and what he thinks his capabilities are," he said. "We already know that he does not think that he is really cut out for the job. So Michael Moore will pick out everything he can to support that argument and we can only hope that Americans are well-versed enough in the successes of the Bush administration that they can balance it out on their own."[9]


Office Bearers

As of 2011, the board consisted of:[10]


  • S. Robert Lichter - President. Robert Lichter is a paid contributor to the Fox News Channel[11]; during the mid-1980's he held the DeWitt Wallace Chair in Mass Communication at the American Enterprise Institute; [12] In addition, according to the CMPA website, he has taught at Princeton University, Georgetown University, George Washington University, and George Mason University, and he was a Postdoctoral Fellow in Politics and Psychology at Yale University, a Senior Research Fellow at Columbia University, and a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow at Smith College.[13]

Former Staff


Center for Media and Public Affairs
and Statistical Assessment Service
2100 L St NW, Suite 300
Washington, DC 20037
STATS line (202) 223 3193
CMPA line (202) 223 2942
Fax (202) 872 4014

Articles and Resources


  1. [1], "About Us"
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Jim Naureckas, Study of Bias or Biased Study?: The Lichter Method and the Attack on PBS Documentaries", Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting, May 14, 1992.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Joe Conason, "Letter: A question of bias", Salon, January 15, 2003.
  4. "Center for Media and Public Affairs, Inc.", Media Transparency, accessed February 2008.
  5. [2], "CMPA About Us"
  6. [3], "CMPA Guidestar 990 Form"
  7. Center for Media and Public Affairs, "Media Boost Obama, Bash "Billary": NBC Is Toughest on Hillary; FOX Has Heaviest Coverage", Media Release, February 1, 2008.
  8. [4], "CMPA Election Study"
  9. J. Malone, "New Michael Moore film fahrenheit 9/11 sparks controversy", Voice of America, June 22, 2004. (No longer available online).
  10. Form 990, 2011.
  11. [5], "Fox News: Robert Lichter"
  12. S. Robert Lichter, "Is There a Liberal Bias in the Media?", John M. Ashbrook Center for Public Affairs (Lecture), March 24, 1993.
  13. "Staff Biographies", Center for Media and Public Affairs website, accessed July 2009.

Related SourceWatch resources

External links