News Articles

Battle Over CPB Chief, Round Two

9/23/2005 08:00:00 PM Eastern

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting
(CPB) board will name a successor to the controversial head of the
organization—with another candidate who could also draw fire.

Outgoing board Chairman Ken Tomlinson, who drew
strong criticism from the public-broadcasting community and some key
legislators for what they see as pushing a Republican agenda, saw his role as
balancing a liberal-programming bias.

Despite indications that veteran broadcaster Claudia
Puig
(Univision Radio) might be picked by midweek, most expected
CPB board member Cheryl Halpern, who some say would
continue the Tomlinson policy, to take over the post.

Tomlinson told reporters last week he had no regrets about his attempts
to add conservative programming: “If I threatened the cozy atmosphere of
public broadcasting over the failure to balance the liberal-advocacy journalism
of Bill Moyers, so be it.”

In her confirmation hearing in 2003, Halpern said CPB should have more
muscle to counter bias. “There has to be recognition that an objective,
balanced code of journalistic ethics has got to prevail across the board, and
there needs to be accountability,” she said, according to CPB mag
Current at the time. “When that fails, guilty parties
need to be penalized.”

There are currently five Republicans and three Democrats on the CPB
board, with the public-radio seat (Democratic) vacant. Word is, moderate former
Sen. David Pryor (D-Ark.) is the choice for
the seat and the nomination has been at the White House since July.

Pryor is seen as a tough but fair moderate who could bring more Blue
State backbone to the board. Clue: He is the dean of the Clinton School of Public Service in Little Rock,
Ark.

Two weeks ago, CPB Inspector General Kenneth
Konz
gave key Hill staffers a three-hour briefing on his
investigation into “deficiencies in policies and procedures” at CPB and
said he would get them a preliminary report by Sept. 26. But last week, his
office said no report to either Congress or the board would be coming out until
late October.

Following a request last May by Reps. David
Obey
(D-Wis.) and John Dingell (D-Mich.),
Konz is investigating whether Tomlinson violated the Public Broadcasting Act by commissioning an outside
content analysis of the politics in Now With
Bill Moyers
—and other PBS shows—and by enlisting a White House staffer to
help write rules for two new ombudsmen, one a former Reader's
Digest
colleague of Tomlinson's.

March