More below the fold.
CPB is not PBS and it is not NPR. The Public Broadcasting Service (TV) and National Public Radio are wholly independent not-for-profit corporations governed by their member stations. Their relationship with CPB has always been one of "love-hate," and more recently could probably be better described as "hate-love."
It's important to understand these distinctions because, I can guarantee you, the only people who are less inclined to like what has been happening at CPB during this Bush Adminstration than us are the people at PBS and NPR and the people who work in the front lines at the varions public TV and radio stations around the country.
The Inspector General's report to the CPB board was first released "in secret" and only to the board. We need to see this report! And now, we can. Links below.
Yesterday a red-hot petition from several groups who support a free and unfettered public broadcasting system began circulating throughout the system. The Free Press, the Center for Digital Democracy and Common Cause have called for Corporation for Public Broadcasting President Patricia Harrisont to resign in the wake of the Inspector General's report. These groups released this press release yesterday.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Craig Aaron, Free Press, (202) 265-1490, x 25
Jeff Chester, CDD, (202) 494-7100
Mary Boyle, Common Cause, (202) 736-5770
Groups call for new leadership at CPB after report reveals ethical violations and 'political tests' in hiring
Inspector General's report illustrates why Congress must implement sweeping reforms to ensure the health and independence of PBS, NPR and other public media
WASHINGTON -- Free Press, the Center for Digital Democracy and Common Cause called on Corporation for Public Broadcasting President Patricia Harrison to resign following the long-awaited release of an Inspector General's report, which exposes extensive wrongdoing by the leadership of the CPB. The report found that "political tests" were a "major criteria" in hiring Harrison to oversee the CPB.
The 67-page report by Inspector General Kenneth Konz, which was presented in secret to the CPB Board of Directors nearly two weeks ago, was sent to Capitol Hill today. Among its other findings:
A copy of the report is available at http://www.freepress.net/... (pdf)
- Former CPB Chairman Kenneth Y. Tomlinson "violated his fiduciary responsibilities and statutory prohibitions against Board member involvement in programming decisions" in creating the "Journal Editorial Report."
- The report criticizes the secretive hiring of Republican operative Frederick Mann to monitor "Now with Bill Moyers" and other programs without authorization from the CPB Board.
- While the report concludes the violations were primarily the result of Tomlinson's "personal actions to accomplish his various initiatives," it also identifies "serious weaknesses" in the CPB's governance system.
The groups also demanded that the CPB make public the "separate investigative report, along with specific evidence indicating possible wrongdoing," that Konz made available to the board as well as any additional documents provided to members of Congress.
"It's time to clean house at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting," said Josh Silver, executive director of Free Press. "This report shows that officials at the very top of the CPB were conspiring to conduct an extreme makeover of our public broadcasting system. Congress needs to immediately clear out the zealous partisans remaining at the CPB and institute sensible reforms that will permanently protect public broadcasting from political interference."
Tomlinson stepped down from the CPB Board on Nov. 3 upon learning of the report's findings. The remaining leadership of the CPB have close ties the Bush administration. Chairwoman Cheryl Halpern and Vice Chairwoman Gay Hart Gaines are veteran GOP operatives and mega-fundraisers, who have praised Tomlinson for "his legitimate efforts to achieve balance and objectivity in public broadcasting." Tomlinson's hand-picked choice to run the CPB, Harrison, is a former chairwoman of the Republican Party, who recently oversaw "public diplomacy" efforts at the State Department.
"The Inspector General's report documents the unnecessary and inappropriate politicization of public broadcasting," said Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. "Through a series of covert and overt activities, the CPB board has helped undermine the foundation of public broadcasting. But Mr. Tomlinson shouldn't be singled out as the lone culprit here. All of the board is responsible, as are top CPB executives past and present. The CPB needs new leaders untarnished by this sordid episode."
In response to the Inspector General's report, Free Press, the Center for Digital Democracy and Common Cause endorsed a series of measures that would:
"The CPB must acknowledge its mistakes and act to restore public confidence, even in the face of this damning report on Mr. Tomlinson's failures," said Common Cause President Chellie Pingree. "We renew our call today for the CPB to be more transparent and accountable by making structural changes to better serve the public interest. The board's initital steps to improve governance don't inspire a lot of confidence given the highly partisan backgrounds of Harrison, Halpern and Gaines."
- Require the CPB Board to be governed in a bipartisan or independent fashion, mandating that its chairman and vice chairman not represent the same political party. The board should include more members with experience in public broadcasting, including producers of independent programming.
- Restore transparency to the CPB Board by requiring open discussion and public votes on all matters. Meetings should be televised and archived online to encourage greater public accountability.
- Reformulate the board's position on objectivity and balance, seeking to allow programmers -- not political appointees -- to determine what the public sees and hears.
- Reduce the organization's political involvement by explicitly prohibiting the CPB board and management from hiring outside political lobbyists or consultants.
More information is available at www.freepress.net/publicbroadcasting
It has been apparent for a couple decades that the structure that supports the federal funding of public broadcasting is in need of serious reform. One good thing about all this recent turmoil is that many public broadcasters are now supportive of such efforts. In the past, it had been difficult for them to publicly revolt against CPB; the old "don't bite the hand that feeds you" mentality. Armed with the Inspector Generals report they, and we -- public TV viewers and public radio listeners -- are in a powerful position now to weigh in, too.
What can you do?
My experience in the system was mostly involved with the public radio side of things. For a detailed "how-to" about how to affect decisions at NPR and its public radio stations, see NPR and How You Fix It.