Kenneth Konz, the Inspector General of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, has agreed to investigate whether noncom stations illegally lobbied Congress.
The investigation comes in response to an Aug. 4 letter from Republican House member Ginny Brown-Waite (R-Fla.). and a group of 17 other Republican house members who have requested that Konz investigate whether public TV stations violated the law by asking their viewers to weigh in on public broadcasting budget cuts that were threatened, and eventually restored, earlier this year.
Konz just completed an investigation into former CPB Chairman Ken Tomlinson that concluded he had violated the law by using a political test in hiring and by trying to affect programming content. Tomlinson denied he was doing anything but fulfilling his mandate, also in the law, to seek balance in public broadcasting shows on controversial subjects.
Konz told B&C that the investigation was just getting underway because the staff had been busy getting out the Tomlinson report. He said they would start surveying stations on what funds went where. Stations are not allowed to use any CPB funds to lobby.
"We question whether CPB-funded stations were not in violation of U.S. code," the Republicans wrote Konz, saying "it seem[ed] like PBS, NPR and other CPB-funded stations were using taxpayer dollars and the tax-payer-funded airwaves to lobby for more taxpayer dollars.
In the letter, the legislators pointed to a Washington Post article of June 21, 2005, reporting that CPB-funded stations were "urging viewers to call members of Congress to tell them how they feel about the impending loss of more than $100 million in federal funds for Public Broadcasting."
Konz says the investigation will hinge not on the lobbying activities, but whose dollars funded them.
He predicted there would be no results from the investigation, which will requires CPA's to pore over financial records, until April at the earliest.