Hill Asked To Investigate CPB Prez Search


Media Activist group Center for Digital Democracy (CDD) has contacted several powerful legislators asking them to investigate the Corporation for Public Broadcasting's search process for a new president.

The group would not identify the members, but John Dingell of Michigan and David Obey of Wisconsin, respectively, last month called for an investigation into reports that the chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Kenneth Tomlinson, is pushing a Republican agenda on the noncom service.

Tomlinson, who said he welcomed the Dingell-Obey investigation, says he is just trying to be fair and balanced: "If we have liberal advocacy shows on public TV, then we should also have conservative advocacy shows, because the law requires us to be balanced," he told B&C last month.

The Washington Post reports that CPB could choose its new chief as soon as its next board meeting June 20-21.

The candidates to replace Kathleen Cox as president of CPB are said to be former Republican National Committee co-chair Patricia de Stacy Harrison and acting chief Ken Ferree, formerly of the FCC's Media Bureau under Republican Chairman Michael Powell.

Harrison is currently Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs and was Acting Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy during the Iraq conflict

Cox left abruptly in April, a move that shocked PBS President Pat Mitchell, who said Cox had "recognized the need for CPB to remain a strong heat shield to protect public media from political pressure."

Neither Harrison nor Ferree sit well with CDD Executive Director Jeff Chester. "It appears that Tomlinson is engaged in a sweetheart deal with either one," he said. "It does not appear that CPB has done a serious search for a candidate. These two candidates are completely inappropriate for the job."

Tomlinson has raised some eyebrows and ire with his suggestions of the need for conservative advocacy on the noncom service.

He planned to have an outside consultant monitor Bill Moyers' Now program, but instead CPB allocated $5 million for a program hosted by The Wall Street Journal's Paul Gigot, which Tomlinson said obviated the need for keeping tabs on Now (which Moyers has since exited) because it was would now be balanced by a conservative show.

Tomlinson also drew criticism for his decision to hire two ombudsmen to address bias and other issues for the noncom service, one a former Tomlinson colleague at TV Guide.