Okay, so I've been playing with my kids all day and only now have had a chance to go to WaPo and check in with my favorite TV Columnist, Lisa de Moraes. Rather than finding a rehash of the latest American Idol results, I found this:
It's Friday Night and CPB's Brief Chief Is Out the Door
An extended excerpt and some analysis after the jump...
de Moraes writes:
One of the things you learn as a cub reporter at the Podunk Independent is that when a company puts out a news release at 5 p.m. on a Friday, they're hoping the reporter already has left to get a head start on the weekend and won't see it until Monday.
In other words, something big and unpleasant is up. Or, more usually, someone's out.
At 5 p.m. yesterday, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting announced that "after implementing the findings of the McKinsey study" (say what?), CPB President Kathleen Cox feels that it's a natural time for her to step aside and let the board conduct a search for her successor.
Ah, wait, it gets better!
For the time being, CPB said, Ken Ferree will take over. A senior official for then-Federal Communications Commission chairman Michael Powell, Ferree was named CPB's chief executive officer and executive vice president a mere three weeks ago.
CPB said in its news release -- issued at 5 p.m. on a Friday -- that last spring Cox, who has been with CPB since 1997, and CPB agreed to a one-year contract for her to serve as president and chief executive officer "in no small part because of her significant contributions to this process."
"This process" refers to "implementing the findings of the McKinsey study." The study, a nice spokeswoman for CPB told us, is "an economic analysis that was conducted to help understand better the economic landscape of public television and identify opportunities for improvement."
The study by the consulting firm McKinsey & Co. was undertaken in 2002 for CPB, which was created by Congress to dole out federal funds to public television and radio.
Yesterday's announcement comes just three days after CPB appointed two ombudsmen to critique the work of public TV and radio. At the time, Cox told The Post's Paul Farhi that the appointments were part of an effort "to raise public broadcasting's ability to address [public] concerns about issues of journalism." She declined to say what, if any, journalistic issues have arisen recently, Farhi reported.
Read between the lines with me here, please. First, Kathleen Cox definitely wasn't planning on being president of CPB for just a year. Bob Coonrad was preparing her to take over from him for four years. In fact, I'm pretty sure the time between when Coonrad announced his retirement and when Cox took over was actually longer than her brief tenure as president.
And the McKinsey Report isn't close to being fully implemented. The report calls for some very major initiatives to strengthen the local stations and these are only just getting off the ground. I'd hardly say that she leaned back at her desk on Friday afternoon and thought "Job well done, Kathy, it's time to end this career on a high note."
Nope. This is clearly right-wing muscle being used to force out an apolitical broadcasting professional in order to influence public media. And that is precisely what the design of the American public broadcasting system was meant to prevent.
I've said numerous times here and elsewhere that the right has moved on to "Plan B" in their attack on public media. When they realized that they could never kill Big Bird in broad daylight, they began working to influence the political tone of public media to the point where its most fervent supporters -- educated, relatively affluent, liberals like us -- would no longer wish to support their local stations with their membership dollars.
Starve the beast.
We've all been reading the writing on the wall for some time, my question to you -- what do we do about it?
One thought I had concerned those new ombudsmen. Let's start contacting them every time:
- Juan Williams lets loose with a whopper on Morning Edition, or
- a reporter doesn't properly identify a conservative think tank during All Things Considered, or
- every time we think Paul Gigot has gone too far on his new Wall Street Journal show, or
- whenever our children learn yet another pietistic lesson from moral bastion Bill Bennett's sickening "Adventures from the Book of Virtues."
After all, how much do you want to bet the new ombudsmen will be hearing from the folks on the other side about their shock and outrage over the liberal bias on NOW and FRONTLINE and Fresh Air?
I'll end with one last passionate plea: Please don't end your own support of public broadcasting. Watch (or listen) any day of the week and you'll realize that it's still the best thing we've got. While I am not a fan of Pat Mitchell, she and her counterpart at NPR are in the worst possible position -- trying to keep public broadcasting alive in the climate of Republican controlled Executive and Legislative bodies in Washington.
If we, as educated liberals, stop supporting our local stations because we're pissed off about some of the changes that have taken place at the national level, we are not just letting the Bush Administration win, we're helping them win. By the time we get another Democrat in the White House, it will be too late for public broadcasting.