Cox Out at CPB

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Kathleen Cox, president of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, resigned late Friday

CPB's board will begin a search for a new president in the next few weeks. In the interim, newly named executive vice president and COO Ken Ferree, formerly with the FCC, will serve as acting president.

Cox's resignation comes as CPB has wrapped up a McKinsey & Co. study of the challenges facing CPB, including major giving and audience appeal. The results that study have not been released.

"Now that the McKinsey process is completed, Kathleen and the board believe that the time is right for new executive leadership," CPB said in a prepared statement issued.

Cox entered a one-year contract to serve as President and CEO on July 1, 2004. She replaced Robert Coonrod, who had headed CPB for the previous seven years. She had been executive VP and chief operating officer since January 2002.

Cox joined CPB in June 1997 as associate general counsel. She served as acting general counsel from October 1997 until her promotion to general counsel in February 1998.

In August 1999, she was promoted to senior vice president, policy, general counsel and corporate secretary, where she oversaw the activities of the offices of general  counsel, corporate secretary, government relations and corporate communications.

Before joining CPB, Cox spent nine years as intellectual property counsel at Bell Atlantic Corp. in Washington. During her tenure, she established the intellectual property group. Cox had also been an attorney at Washington and L.A. law firms.

Ferree previously served as FCC Media Bureau chief under former agency chairman Michael Powell.

Cox's resignation came only three days after CPB created a new office of ombudsmen "to both protect the production of public broadcasting from undue interference and to ensure that it represents high standards in accuracy, balance and objectivity." The ombudsmen will be former NBC newsman Ken Bode and former Reader's Digest executive editor William Schulz.

Those ombudsmen were approved by the CPB board, chaired by Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, also formerly of Reader's Digest, who announced the resignation.

The appointment of the ombudsmen was a harbinger of Cox's resignation, says Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy.

Cox is a victim of the ideologues who run CPB," said Chester, who says the organization is being forced by the GOP Congress and the Bush administration to shift the tone of its journalistic programming rightward. also pointing to Ferree's Rebublican ties.

The McKinsey study is the "thinnest of fig leaves" to mask the ideological reasons for Cox's departure, he said.
Public broadcasting has also been criticized for some programming moves, including pulling the plug on an episode of  PBS kids series Buster, which featured lesbian parents, after DOE Secretary Margaret Spellings complained--PBS has said it was not pressured into the decision and agreed that the episode was not appropriate.

The announcement came as a shock to PBS President and CEO Pat Mitchell. "We were surprised to learn today that Kathleen Cox will not be continuing as CPB President and CEO," said Mitchell.  "She recognized the need for CPB to remain a strong heat shield to protect public media from political pressure."

"We deeply regret the departure of a colleague with whom we had a strong and constructive relationship."

Mitchell has announced her own departure, but it won't be until June 2006, when her contract is up.

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