APTS Has Concerns With Bell Nomination

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The Association of Public Television Stations (APTS) plans to hold a board meeting shortly after the Senate commerce Committee hearing for CPB board nominee Warren Bell Thursday to decide what official position to take on his nomination, but it isn't shaping up to be a ringing endorsement.

The noncom community is increasingly concerned about the bloggings and other public statements of Bell about women, diversity, kids TV and more--APTS President John Lawson calls them "flippantly hostile."

Bell is a veteran sitcom writer and executive with shows including According to Jim, Coach, and Ellen. He is also an unabashedly conservative sometimes-contributor to the National Review.

John Lawson, president of APTS, which represents public TV station interests in Washington, says he has also seen a letter that has been sent to Senator Ted Stevens and Daniel Inouye. co-chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee] essentially corroborating statements Bell has made about public broadcasting in which he says he thinks it should be de-funded.

But the letter-writer is not the only one who has weighed in.

While Lawson says the board will vote on its official decision, he also says: "We have not hesitated to express our strong reservations to the members of the Senate Commerce Committee about him. We had hoped that he would come forward and reach out and help allay some of the fears that we have, but we haven't seen any attempts like that."

The outspokenly conservative and politically incorrect Bell--he has, for example,  said women, generally, just aren't as funny as men--is a curious choice for the board at this time. It has been under pressure, and under renovation, stemming from the fall-out from Republican Ken Tomlinson's chairmanship and the ensuing Inspector General report that essentially found the board insufficiently insulated from politics.

The IG report was prompted by legislators concerned with Tomlinson's efforts to balance what he said was a liberal bias in noncommercial programming. That included hiring an outside consultant to review that bias and picking Republicans for top posts.

The IG last November concluded that CPB had used "political tests" to recruit CPB CEO Patricia Harrison, the former co-chair of the Republican National Committee.

The Public Broadcasting Act prevents CPB from influencing programming decisions and attempts to insulate it from politics. According to the Act, "no political test or qualification shall be used in selecting, appointing, promoting, or taking other personnel actions with respect to officers, agents, and employees of the Corporation."

In a Nov. 8, 2005, response to the IG, CPB agreed to adopt new internal controls.

APTS has no issues with the other two nominees, former Senator David Pryor and Chris Boskin from KQED San Francisco.

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