Harrison on Target


Patricia Harrison took aim at the Republican FCC's content crackdown Monday, while making a pitch for funding for noncommercial TV, an appropriation usually in jeopardy from Republicans critical of noncoms.

Harrison, is the former Republican National Committee co-chair and Bush administration appointee who became president of CPB at the height of the firestorm over CPB Board Chair Ken Tomlinson's attempts to "balance" the "liberal bias" in public broadcasting.

Given her Republican roots, noncommercial broadcasters were leery of the appointment, but she has not been the radioactive exec many had predicted. To the contrary, she has been a pleasantly nonpartisan surprise given those initial reservations, according to some in the noncom community.

On Monday, she didn't sound like she was carrying water for anybody in calling the content crackdown a potentially chilling form of prior censorship. She did not personalize the criticism, calling FCC Chairman Kevin Martin a smart and serious regulator, but she said she had real concerns, as do many of us.

She did say CPB was trying to come up with some kind of definition of balanced programming, but has tapped journalism schools and think tanks. So long as CPB does not come up with a litmus test–she said it would not–the conversation about what constitutes journalism, much less balanced journalism, in world of bloggers and citizen journalists, is one worth having.

By John Eggerton