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Kenneth Konz, the Inspector General looking into political bias at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), has released his report to the CPB Board.  It is devastating to the political hacks that President George W. Bush has selected to control this public broadcasting funding conduit.  Kenneth Tomlinson resigned his presidency ahead of the report and was replaced by Patricia Harrison, whose main experience has been raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for the RNC and Bush's re-election campaign.  Pubcasters are now calling for her resignation, as well.

More below the fold.

Background:  The Corporation for Public Broadcasting is a "quasi-governmental," "independent" corporation established by Congress in the 1970's to oversee that portion of public radio and TV funding that is authorized and appropriated each year by Congress.  It was set up to act as a buffer between the federal government and the stations and producers that ultimately receive such funding.  CPB's board is appointed by the President of the United States.  The corporation designs policies "in consultation with the public broadcasting entities" that govern disbursement of these funds.  Its funding is authorized by Congress and is overseen by the Telecommunications Subcommittees of both Houses.  Currently CPB funding accounts for roughly 20% of funding for the entire pubcasting system.

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
Contact:
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:

  • 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.

A copy of the report is available at http://www.freepress.net/... (pdf)

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:

  • 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.

"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."

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?

Contact your local public broadcasting station(s) and urge them to support this petition.  You can also contact NPR and PBS directly to add your .02 with them, as well.

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.

Originally posted to Eddie Haskell on Wed Nov 16, 2005 at 07:00 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Kick 'em when they're down Tip Jar (4.00)
    Let's tell PBS, NPR and all our local stations that their viewers and listeners support removing political hacks from the agency that provides their federal funds.

    80W-71S
    The most un-American thing you can say is, "You can't say that." -G. Keillor

    by Eddie Haskell on Wed Nov 16, 2005 at 07:04:37 AM PST

  •  Cronies Polluting Broadcasting (4.00)
    Time to bring the cronyism and corruption meme into play here.  What experience do the current political appointees atop the CPB have in broadcasting?  Any more than Mike Brown had in disaster management when he was placed atop FEMA?  

    To initiate a war of aggression is ... the supreme international crime. ---Nuremberg Tribunal -4.50, -5.85

    by Dallasdoc on Wed Nov 16, 2005 at 07:11:25 AM PST

    •  Here's a list (4.00)
      only slightly outdated, but the best I could find on short notice.

      http://www.current.org/...

      Cronyism has long been a hallmark of CPB Board appointments, even when it was "our guys" doing the appointing.  But the most recent Bush appointments have been a real wake up call / s;ap in the face.

      You are right.  It is time to end this charade and find a way to create a structure for CPB that lets it focus on quality broadcasting by appointing people with real broadcast expertise and remove it from its "watchdog" role over political leanings to the left or the right.

      80W-71S
      The most un-American thing you can say is, "You can't say that." -G. Keillor

      by Eddie Haskell on Wed Nov 16, 2005 at 08:09:46 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I love public broadcasting (4.00)
    And I mean that in a deeply personal way. Most of my professional experience is in public television; a large number of my friends have some connection (past or present) with the system; and I think the vast, vast, vast majority of people that work there are very well-meaning, dedicated people. And, yes, they are more upset by the CPB thing than anyone here that's not part of the system, probably.

    So it pains me to say that I think it's in serious trouble. And the governmental funding situation is only a part of it. The whole approaching wave of multi-media content on-line threatens to cripple the system, and they don't seem to understand why. I've talked to many, many people about it, and they just don't get it as a system. Some individuals do, but as an institution ... oy.

    Combine that fact, the institutional resistance to change in the system, and the funding/political problems ... and you've got serious problems.

    PubliusTV: A Collaborative Media Network

    by BriVT on Wed Nov 16, 2005 at 07:17:50 AM PST

    •  Interestingly, (4.00)
      many local public tv and radio stations are doing better, at least in the fundraising arena, than before the recent political flaps over CPB.  But the Corporation's influence over what gets on -- especially new programs -- is still quite powerful; moreso for TV than for radio, I think.

      And you are right that the system has not come to grips with the impact that all the new technologies will (and already are) have on it.  I think the radio side is a tiny bit ahead of the TV side on this, but even there, the system of traditional local terrestrial transmission is in for some rude shocks over the next few years.  

      Of course, the same can be said for all traditional broadcasters, whether non-commercial or commercial.  The recent moves by NBC and CBS and others to allow "99 cent" downloads of individual programs is of huge concern to their affiliates who are seeing their viewer numbers drop like rocks.

      It wasn't long ago that public broadcasting was the leader in exploring new technologies.  Pubcaster's efforts led the industry in the adoption of satellite distribution, for example.  Today, they are woefully behind the curve due, in no small part, to the byzantine funding and governance structures of the system itself and the unwillingness of our Republican administration and right-dominated Congress to provide adequate funds to spur innovation in these areas.

      80W-71S
      The most un-American thing you can say is, "You can't say that." -G. Keillor

      by Eddie Haskell on Wed Nov 16, 2005 at 08:20:07 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  new technologies (4.00)
        It's a complicated situation, but a big problem is that the system just doesn't understand fully that it's a grass-roots not-for-profit system that happens to do television, not a TV network that happens to be not-for-profit. Also, they've been shielded by the fact that for its entire history, public television has had a basic monopoly on not-for-profit video services that can be broadcast into a home (cable access doesn't really count), so they could act like a TV network and still be distinctive by the media paradigm's very nature. But the new technologies will destroy that advantage, and the system isn't comfortable enough as a grass-roots organization to follow along with the new tech. I know for a fact that the heads of major programming services are looking at new technology primarily as a new way to deliver their programming to the viewer, along the same lines as the .99 downloads you mention the big networks are looking at. But that's just not where they should be looking. Or, more accurately, not primarily where they should be looking.

        Ah, I've had more conversations about this than I can remember ...

        PubliusTV: A Collaborative Media Network

        by BriVT on Wed Nov 16, 2005 at 08:48:14 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Corporate sponsors (4.00)
    Corporations sponsoring Morning Edition, ATC, the News Hour, Sesame Street, etc will take one of three positions on changes to the CPB board:

    • They will support the current board
    • They will demand changes and reform
    • They will sit on the sidelines

    We should urge them to protect their investment by demanding changes and reform.

    I've got blisters on my fingers!

    by Elwood Dowd on Wed Nov 16, 2005 at 07:19:20 AM PST

  •  Excellent info Eddie! (none)
    Who knew you could provide anything but snark to Dkos? Thanks for keeping us "abreast" of the CPB info!
  •  Eddie (4.00)
    Excellent diary, my friend.

    There is nothing more stimulating than a case where everything goes against you. -- Sherlock Holmes

    by Carnacki on Wed Nov 16, 2005 at 07:34:10 AM PST

  •  sorry (none)
    I gave up on pbs when they put up the wsj report. I saw the handwriting on the wall then. I was faithful to npr a little longer, then they had the audacity to cut bob edwards loose. That wasn't right. Now with this hagerty woman on npr, it'll take a lot before I give npr another dime. Let 'em die on the vine. Tomilinson has gotten what he wanted, fox news on the public dole.
    •  And this will effect change for the better how? (4.00)
      Not to ding you, but your response is exactly what they're hoping will happen.
      •  I realize that. (none)
        But why should I pay them to do it? The record shows that tomilinson won't face any reprecussions for this  action and the republic party has clear plans to reduce funding for any sort of public broadcasting unless it funds their own talking points, so why should I help it?  Possibly if there is some real congressional oversight, I might change my mind but the republic party won't allow that to happen. We'll see what happens after 2006, but the hagerty reporting drove me over the cliff.
      •  Not quite. (none)
        What they hope will happen is that NPR, CPB, and PBS will wipe out the last vestiges of librulism--and survive.  If we lose in 2006, our only mission can and will be what theirs once was: to destroy them.

        What can we do with our money?  Support alternative broadcasting and media, of course.

  •  Diary on this yesterday... (4.00)
    ...but it scrolled off quickly during the God Wars.

    PBS Scandal: Breaks law to impose views (w/poll)
    http://www.dailykos.com/...

    Anyone interested should definitely read the piece in the December Vanity Fair by James Wolcott (Kill PBS? Over my dead Volvo!) which really fleshes out the narrative of the right Wing assault on public broadcasting.

    Best quote:

    Conservatives grow fond of their grudges, cradling them to their bosoms like vipers and passing them down to the younger generation, where Ann Coulter and Michelle Malkin model them as necklaces.

    "Never give up, no surrender" Economic -6.38/Social -4.21

    by wonkydonkey on Wed Nov 16, 2005 at 08:50:13 AM PST

    •  That's a very good diary, wonkydonkey (none)
      and you're right -- it scrolled by before I caught it (much like this one is doing.. heh).  Tipped and recommended after the fact, anyway.

      I guess this stuff is too "dry" to draw much attention.  Much more fun to just complain about individual and isolated stories we see and hear on public radio and tv than to actually try to influence the direction our public broadcasting system.

      80W-71S
      The most un-American thing you can say is, "You can't say that." -G. Keillor

      by Eddie Haskell on Wed Nov 16, 2005 at 09:35:16 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks, Eddie! (none)
        It's tough to keep a current event diary up very long when the pressing issue of "how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?" is raging all around.  Apparently the diary police have no jurisdiction over repetitive diaries when the subject is religion.

        I'm glad that you posted the story again today.  

        "Never give up, no surrender" Economic -6.38/Social -4.21

        by wonkydonkey on Wed Nov 16, 2005 at 10:04:24 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  have I mentioned lately (none)
    how I adore you?

    jotter's Lists of High Impact Diaries: daily and weekly archives (bring your own bendy straws)

    by sele on Wed Nov 16, 2005 at 04:09:59 PM PST

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