Minority consortia to PBS: PubTV’s ‘stunning lack of diversity’ allowed the Burns flap to occur

Public broadcasting's five CPB-funded minority consortia sent this letter to PBS President Paula Kerger on April 9, 2007. Dear Paula:

I’m writing to you on behalf of my colleagues of the National Minority Consortia (NMC), which, along with the National Black Programming Consortium, includes the Center for Asian American Media, Latino Public Broadcasting, Native American Public Telecommunications and Pacific Islanders in Communications. We would like to offer our support to you in helping to address in a positive manner what we view as legitimate community concerns over the omission of Latino voices from Ken Burns’ The War. It is not the idea of an intentional exclusion that raises the flag of indignation from the American public – and not only, as has been suggested, Hispanic Americans. It is the idea that the perspective of those within the public broadcasting system empowered to make decisions about what is and is not appropriate for a public television event of this magnitude do not fundamentally represent the diversity of this society.

Indecency’s winding road, 1978-2006

July 3, 1978
FCC v. Pacifica Foundation: The Supreme Court upheld the FCC’s right to ban indecent speech when children could be expected to be in the audience. Pacifica’s WBAI in New York had aired George Carlin’s “Filthy Words” monologue in the afternoon of Oct. 30, 1973. Upshot: Confirmed both the FCC’s right to regulate indecent language and its definition of such speech as that which depicts “sexual or excretory activities or organs in terms patently offensive as measured by contemporary community standards for the broadcast medium.” Indecent material falls short of obscenities, which are banned at all hours. Aug.

NPR announces Working Group to consider Digital Distribution Consortium, 2006

NPR exec Ken Stern sent this memo to public radio stations' Authorized Representatives as a followup to the New Realities Forum in May 2006. News from Ken Stern - Digital Distribution Consortium Working Group
June 6, 2006

Dear Colleagues:

Last month, about 300 of our colleagues gathered at the New Realities National Forum in Washington. We discussed the future of public radio and our service, and envisioned the benefits of working together differently in the future. It was an exciting and motivating session and we'd like to extend our thanks to all who participated in the forum and the retreats leading up to it. Many retreat discussions and more than a dozen forum breakouts explored the shared notion that we have yet to seize the opportunities of the digital age.

Moyers: ‘The best is yet to come . . . I am an optimist’

Text of Bill Moyers' speech May 18, 2006, at the PBS Showcase Conference, Orlando, Fla. He spoke after PBS gave him its third annual Be More Award. Jump to sections where Moyers:
thanks associates for their part in his work,
tells why the best is yet to come,
recalls discussions in the Johnson White House,
lists what public TV could do for democracy, and
explains why CPB didn't get stable funding

See also Current's coverage and full text of the speech. Thank you for this moment. I consider your award the singular honor of my long life in public broadcasting.

Wilbur Mills to LBJ: ‘We ain’t gonna give money to folks without some strings attached’

Congress doesn't work that way, said Wilbur Mills, the formidable chair of the House Ways and Means Committee in the late 1960s. Bill Moyers, then a young aide to President Johnson, recalled the upshot of the Public Broadcasting Act: Congress created CPB but left it without a dedicated revenue source, destined to lobby unceasingly for annual appropriations. This account is excerpted from Moyers' speech to the PBS Showcase Conference in May 2006. (The full text of the speech is also on this site.)
... When he signed it, the President said that the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967 “announces to the world that our nation wants more than just material wealth; our nation wants more than ‘a chicken in every pot.’ We in America have an appetite for excellence, too....

Citizen groups file FOIA request for CPB documents

Citing the Freedom of Information Act, three citizen watchdog groups petitioned CPB President Pat Harrison Nov. 21, 2005, to release certain documents mentioned in the CPB inspector general's Nov. 15 report on the Tomlinson affair. Included are materials given privately by the IG to the CPB Board and members of Congress, minutes of closed and open CPB Board meetings for three years and communications with the White House and with producers of Tucker Carlson Unfiltered and Journal Editorial Report. Several days earlier the groups had requested similar information without invoking FOIA.

Review of Alleged Actions Violating the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967, as Amended

Released by  CPB Nov. 15, 2005

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Office of Inspector General, has conducted a review of alleged violations of the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967, as amended. We found evidence that the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) former Chairman violated statutory provisions and the Director’s Code of Ethics by dealing directly with one of the creators of a new public affairs program during negotiations with the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and the CPB over creating the show. Our review also found evidence that suggests “political tests” were a major criteria used by the former Chairman in recruiting a President/Chief Executive Officer (CEO) for CPB, which violated statutory prohibitions against such practices. Our review of the hiring of a consultant to review program content for objectivity and balance showed that such reviews were consistent with Section 19(2)(B) of the Public Telecommunications Act of 1992, however problems occurred when the former Chairman initiated such actions without informing the Board and signed the contract without Board authorization.

The ex-chairman’s reply: ‘My actions were open, lawful,’ sincere in intent

Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, former CPB chairman, responded to the CPB inspector general's Nov. 15, 2005, report with this statement, which was published as an appendix to the report. I am disappointed, but not surprised, by the Inspector General's report. It was apparent early on that Inspector General Kenneth A. Konz would opt for politics over good judgment. Mr. Konz, in direct violation of his Code of Ethics, told Bloomberg News that his report would be critical of me six weeks before he released his report to the CPB Board.

CPB Inspector General’s recommendations after the Tomlinson episode

Excerpted from Inspector General Kenneth Konz's full 67-page report (PDF), Nov. 15, 2005. We recommend that the Board of Directors take the following actions to improve CPB’s governance processes. 1) Revise CPB’s By-Laws to:

a) Clarify the Board of Directors’ and President/CEO’s roles and responsibilities (e.g., Board of Directors are responsible for development and oversight of high level public policy issues and CEO is responsible for managing professional staff in implementing policy). b) Develop Board of Director processes to investigate and discipline Board members when they are found to violate the CPB By-Laws, Directors Code of Ethics, CPB’s operating policies and procedures, and the Public Broadcasting Act.