In 1973, CPB negotiated an agreement with the PBS defining the relationship between the two organizations with respect to program control, operation of the public television interconnection, and support of local stations. When the CPB Board voted to defer action on a draft of the agreement which representatives of the two organizations had worked out, CPB Chairman Curtis resigned, alleging improper White House interference in the negotiations process. Six weeks after Curtis’ resignation, the CPB Board approved the “Partnership Agreement” with PBS. Following Curtis’ resignation and ratification of the Agreement, Whitehead recommended a shift in the Administration’s approach toward public broadcasting.
On January 6, four days prior toCPB’s first board meeting of 1973, Whitehead, Goldberg, and Lamb had lunch with CPB General Counsel Tom Gherardi. Prior to the meeting, Whitehead also spoke with Loomis, Freeman and Ted Braun. (Braun had just resigned from the CPB Board.)
At its January 10 meeting, the Board adopted a resolution calling for greater involvement of local stations and the public in CPB decisionmaking. As part of the process of expanding access to CPB decisionmaking, the Board said it would review CPB’s relationships with PBS, NPR, NAEB, local station boards, citizens advisory groups, and others who shared its “devotion to excellence and diversity in public broadcasting.” The Board said it was “particularly concerned about the dilution or confusion of decisionmaking responsibility between CPB and PBS” and would seek to negotiate a formal, written contract to govern the relationship between them.
Later in January, Whitehead, Goldberg, and Lamb met again with Gherardi; this time over dinner. During January, Whitehead also met or spoke with Kristol and Wrather.
On January 31, Keith Fischer, the new Executive Vice President of CPB, sent Lamb drafts of resolutions dealing with proposed CPB Board policies on public affairs programs and management of the television interconnection. Fischer’s cover letter said Loomis had asked him to send the drafts to Lamb. Fischer emphasized that the drafts were preliminary. “In fact, our Board has not yet seen them,” Fischer said, adding, “We will keep you advised as these are formulated into more formal documents.”
On February 5, Whitehead met with Haldeman, Colson, and the President to discuss communications issues. According to a memorandum for the record prepared by Whitehead, “The President opened the meeting by saying how much he admired and appreciated the way Mr. Whitehead had been handling his job, particularly with regard to the problem of the networks and broadcasting….”
The memo then reviewed the discussion pertaining to license renewal, cable television, prime-time access, and public broadcasting. With respect to the latter, it said:
The President reaffirmed his view on public television and that we should oppose the funding of controversial public affairs programming with tax dollars. Mr. Whitehead expressed concern that the various parts of the public television field were feuding over future directions and Federal dollars. He feels that the strong proclivity of public TV to produce one-sided political affairs programming as an instrument of social change and the danger of CPB becoming a mouthpiece for a future, less restrained Administration may make it necessary in the future to eliminate the use of Federal tax monies to fund public television. The President recognized that such steps might become necessary.
Following the meeting, Whitehead, Goldberg, and Lamb had lunch with Loomis and Fischer.
Whitehead also called Wrather that day. On February 6, Whitehead placed calls to three other CPB directors: Curtis, Moore, and Freeman. On February 7, CPB held its monthly Board meeting.
On February 16, the Administration submitted to Congress a bill authorizing $45 million for FY 74 for CPB. Whitehead’s letter to the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate indicated that the Secretary of HEW would be submitting separately an authorization bill for the Educational Broadcasting Facilities Program.
On March 6, the day before CPB’s March board meeting, Whitehead and Curtis met in Whitehead’s office. Whitehead also talked by phone that day with Loomis and Moore.
At its March 7 meeting, the CPB Board voted to seek an extension of Federal support for CPB at levels of $60 million for FY 74 and $80 million for FY 75; to authorize a subcommittee of the Board (Killian, Valenti, and Moore) to consult with representatives of the public television stations regarding their plans for use of the interconnection; and to adopt a national program schedule for the 1973-74 television season.
On March 22, Goldberg and Lamb met with Loomis. Four days later, Whitehead had breakfast with Curtis.
On March 27, Whitehead wrote the following “Memorandum for the Record”:
We were advised by the White House today that the President still sees serious dangers in the existence of a Federally funded broadcasting network. He is strongly opposed to control of the interconnect and its scheduling anywhere other than with CPB since that is the entity responsible to the Congress by law for the use of Federal funds. The effort Mr. Curtis is making to seek more involvement by the boards of local public broadcast stations and a more active partnership with them in funding programs has much good in it. But the President would have to oppose that plan and Mr. Curtis personally, both strongly and openly, unless the principles of board responsibility and of safeguarding against excessive control by private organizations are clearly incorporated.
The next day Whitehead testified before a Senate Subcommittee on Communications hearing on a two-year CPB authorization bill which Senators Pastore and Magnuson had introduced, and on the Administration’s one-year proposal. In his testimony Whitehead continued what he criticized as “a tendency toward centralized program decisionmaking by CPB and PBS.” Whitehead also criticized as “inappropriate and potentially dangerous” reliance on federal monies to support public affairs programming.
Curtis and Loomis also testified that day, but unlike Whitehead, they supported the Pastore-Magnuson bill.
On March 30, PBS was reorganized. The new organization was created by combining the old PBS, the Board of Governing Chairmen, and the Educational Television Stations Division of the NAEB.
During the month of April, discussions between CPB and PBS aimed at defining the relationship of the two organizations continued. As the discussions proceeded, Killian, and Valenti, representing a majority of the CPB negotiating committee, recommended to the CPB Board an agreement under which CPB, in consultation with PBS, would decide what programs to fund; and PBS, in consultation with CPB programming staff, would schedule the TV interconnection. Killian and Valenti also recommended that non-CPB funded programs be given access to the interconnection. The CPB committee chairman, Moore, filed a dissent with the Board, in which he argued that CPB should operate and schedule the interconnection. Loomis transmitted the negotiating committee’s report to the Board on April 9.
On April 11, Dick McCormack, a consultant to CPB who had previously worked as an OTP consultant, called Whitehead’s office. The next day McCormack sent Whitehead a memo confirming their conversation.
According to McCormack’s memo, Rogers and probably Curtis were initiating a campaign to remove Loomis as President of CPB. Word of this effort already had been leaked to the trade press, McCormack said. The memo continued:
By now, Curtis must have learned of broad dissatisfaction with his conduct as chairman. He may well have learned that Loomis, as well as a number of his fellow board members would like to remove him as chairman this September. Moreover, by comparison with Loomis, Curtis suffers on television appearances. This too, for a proud ex politico must rankle him. For all these reasons, I suspect that Curtis would like to have Loomis out of the way. And as a skilled politician, Curtis knows that the first step in removing someone is a whispering campaign.
The conflict between Curtis and Loomis simply must not be permitted to continue or surface. If this happens, and if there is an open breach, Loomis’ ability to influence the outside will be sharply reduced. And we might as well pick up our marbles and go home.
In light of the above, McCormack recommended:
1. That the White House prevail upon Curtis to issue a statement of confidence in Loomis–or that the Board of Directors as a whole give Loomis a vote of confidence. In view of the printed reports, a vote of confidence in management is perfectly normal procedure and would stop the whispering campaign cold.
2. That the White House prevail upon the Board of Directors of CPB to support an “interim plan” confirming CPB control of the programming’ decisions–while at the same time instructing CPB management to continue negotiations with PBS and the Rogers group and to report on recommendations in one year’s time….
3. CPB Board should pass a resolution thanking Ralph Rogers for his selfless efforts thus far toward finding a common solution to the questions facing the public broadcasting industry.
4. We must recruit a more effective buffer between CPB management and CPB chairman and board of directors than the present secretary of the board, who also functions as the general counsel. We have pretty much lost control of our board–and it’s going to take a bigger man than Gherardi to get on top of the situation. In the ego conflict between Gherardi and Curtis, the only winner has been Ralph Rogers and Hartford Gunn. WE SIMPLY CAN NOT AFFORD TO LET THIS SITUATION CONTINUE.
On April 12, Whitehead met in his office with Curtis and Moore.
On April 13, the CPB Board met and voted to defer action on the agreement which representatives of CPB and PBS had hammered out.
In the wake of the Board’s decision, Curtis resigned from the Board of CPB and as its Chairman. Curtis explained his reasons in a letter to the President, dated April 16:
A difference of opinion developed between myself and what Mr. Whitehead stated to me was your opinion in respect to the course of action the Corporation should be taking in working out its current relationships with PBS, the local stations and other organizations. I told Mr. Whitehead that of course I respected your opinion, but I was certain you did not have the benefit of my experience over the past seven months I have been Chairman and dealing with the matter, nor did he. That I was anxious to give you my views as to why the course of action the Board under my leadership seemed ready to take was wise. Mr. Whitehead suggested that if the Board persisted in the course of action it seemed ready to pursue, a veto of the new authorization Bill probably would be forthcoming. I responded by saying the Board would proceed and if it did follow the course seemingly it was ready to follow, perhaps the results would be such that the Board would be proven right and that a veto would not be advisable.
Mr. Whitehead and others did not accept this position. Their approach was to call individual members of the Board privately without my knowledge or the knowledge of the other members of the Board and presumably try to persuade them to the position that he stated you had taken. This resulted in the Board deferring action on the resolution and considerably altering the delicate negotiations in progress with the new PBS organization and others involved in public broadcasting.
I have been vigorously defending a wide-spread, persistent false and vicious attack against your administration and the CPB alleging in essence that your administration was seeking to take over public broadcasting a) either to make a propaganda arm for your administration, b) to emasculate it so that no criticism of your administration would emanate from it. I pointed out that you had made it clear that you wanted public broadcasting so structured that neither your administration nor any succeeding administration could make a propaganda arm out of public broadcasting, or at least make it exceedingly difficult to do so.
I pointed out that the assurance of this was to emphasize and build up the independence of the Board within the spirit and the letter of the statute creating it. Of course the efforts of Mr. Whitehead and others however well intentioned to save the Board from making what they deemed to be a serious mistake has seriously undermined this independence and integrity, and placed me in a position of not being able to defend the independence of the Board with the vigor required.
On April 20, Whitehead responded to Curtis’ letter:
The President has informed me that he has received your letter of resignation from the Board of Directors of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. I am very sorry that things did not work out as you wanted, but we all very much appreciate your service as Chairman of the CPB Board.
I am sure that the President appreciates, as much as I, your devoting so much time to this important and difficult area.
The same day, Goldberg, the OTP General Counsel, sent Whitehead a memo reviewing the Administration’s activities regarding public broadcasting and recommending a future course of action:
Almost two years ago we focused upon a policy for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the public broadcasting system in general. Generally, that policy was one that was tied closely to the principles of localism underlying the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967 — a policy opposed to the development of a “Fourth Network.”
The hope was to strengthen the local stations so that they could act collectively as an effective counter force to the centralized, national public broadcasting entities, including the Fred Friendly wing of the Ford Foundation. Structurally, the two approaches that the policy relied upon to achieve this result were (1) converting the interconnection facilities into a distribution network, with the stations taping programs and delaying for later broadcast, and (2) directing operating funds to the local stations in a manner intended to provide them financial independence from CPB. The memorandum outlining this policy approach is attached.
Since September 1971, however, we have not attempted to implement this policy and seek structural changes in public broadcasting. Rather, we have “talked” the policy but relied upon the Directors and staff of CPB to make the needed changes in the operation of the public broadcasting system. This approach involves an inherent inconsistency, in that it seeks centralization as the first step in achieving decentralization. Since the inherent inconsistency is apparent, our motives become suspect and the continued restatement of the localism goal is discounted as simply not being credible.
Another difficulty with this approach is that it requires a high degree of competence and leadership in the individuals chosen for CPB. Past events have demonstrated that these characteristics are quite rare among the people who make up the talent pool we have available to us. Ineffective or ineffectual people simply cannot achieve the requisite goals. In such a vacuum, it devolves upon us to exercise the necessary leadership, thereby exacerbating the centralization problem and bringing our motives into further question.
At this point we are at or near the bottom of the “slippery slope” we first set upon a year and a half ago. However, the chaos within pubic broadcasting that has resulted from our approach also has its advantages. The present disarray of our opponents, and the fact that we have gone just about as far as we can with this approach, makes this an ideal time — perhaps our last clear chance — to restructure public broadcasting and to extricate ourselves and future Administrations from continuous tinkering with public broadcasting.
As I see it, we have two general alternative approaches at hand. One approach is to find competent, fair-minded and independent leadership for the Corporation, both at the board and staff levels; outline the decentralized/localized structure we seek (which might involve their developing new legislation that we could support); and leave this leadership free to rectify the deficiencies in the public broadcasting system. Our other alternative is to take it upon ourselves to call together the CPB, PBS and other station interests, and work out a legislative restructuring of public broadcasting that we all can support.
Both of these alternatives are based upon certain assumptions. One is, that despite our strongly held wishes to the contrary, that it will be impossible for us to “kill” the Corporation either through direct legislative action or through suffocation by stringent cutbacks in appropriated funds.
Another assumption is that, eventually, the full development of cable television, with pay cable as a viable service, will obviate the need in 10-15 years for the Federal Government to subsidize an entire supplemental broadcasting system as an alternative to the present commercial television system. Therefore, both options are mid-range options, i.e., options to see us through the next ten years.
I am disposed toward the second alternative. The first is too much like our present course of action, which has been unsuccessful. In taking this approach you and your successors will inevitably be drawn deeper and deeper into public broadcasting to make short-term adjustments for deficiencies in CPB’s leadership.
While I am not optimistic that the legislative restructuring alternative is a viable one, I suspect that some key leaders in public broadcasting are getting tired of having defeat continually snatched from the jaws of victory. They know that, at least for the next three years, they face veto after veto of any funding bill that exceeds a subsistence diet for public broadcasting. Moreover, the realists among them cannot pin all of their hopes on a change to a liberal Democratic Administration in 1976. In short, they may be willing to negotiate now.
I think that our own enlightened self-interest dictates that we use this opportunity to create something constructive and lasting by way of a public broadcasting policy. If not, the great expenditure in time and effort and personal sacrifice of your “image” over the past two years will all be for naught. I would not like our record in public broadcasting to be one solely of creating, enhancing and feeding upon chaos in this element of the broadcasting system.
On May 9, the CPB Board unanimously approved a four-point proposal for an agreement with PBS as recommended by CPB’s Negotiating Committee. The proposal provided:
(1) CPB, in consultation with PBS, would decide all CPB funded programs through the CPB program department.
(2) All non-CPB funded programs would have access to the interconnection.
(3) Scheduling of the interconnection would be done by a group of three appointed by PBS and three appointed by CPB, and a seventh participant chosen by the other six. The seventh participant would have no connection with PBS or CPB and would act as chairman.
(4) The agreement with PBS would be mutually reviewed at the end of one year of operation.
That same week Whitehead met with Presidential Assistant Garment to discuss some of the thinking OTP had been doing about Administration directions in the communications field. Whitehead told Garment that one of the areas in which OTP was considering a shift in direction was public broadcasting.
According to a “Memorandum for the Record” which Whitehead wrote on the 18th, Garment agreed with the proposed shift in direction in public broadcasting. His memo said:
A great deal of mutual misunderstanding and mistrust has arisen between the Administration and various parts of the public broadcasting community. The recent reconstitution of the Public Broadcasting Service emphasizing its role as representative of the local stations and the current dispute between CPB and PBS may provide an opportunity for bringing about an accord in this area. If an acceptable accord can be reached between CPB and PBS that 15 reasonably acceptable to the Administration, then we probably should support a compromise involving two-year funding, particularly if the funding levels can be kept in the vicinity of $55 and $65 million respectively. Otherwise, another veto may be necessary. In any event, we should explore a more long-range constructive accommodation in this area.
On May 23, the CPB and PBS negotiators agreed on a set of principles defining the relationship between the two organizations. The so-called Partnership Agreement was affirmed by the CPB Board May 31. It incorporated the first two points of the May 9 CPB proposal. Additionally, it provided that PBS would submit a draft schedule of programs for interconnection to CPB, that CPB and PBS would jointly monitor the “balance and objectivity” of CPB-funded programs, that CPB and PBS would formalize an annual contract for the physical operation of the interconnection, that a Partnership Review Committee would be established, and that CPB would pass an increased percentage of its appropriations directly to the stations as appropriations increased.
On June 6, Whitehead sent a draft “Memorandum for the President” to Hank Paulson of the White House staff. The memo laid out options for the President with respect to the Pastore-Magnuson two-year authorization bill and recommended a change in the Administration’s approach toward public broadcasting:
Last June you vetoed a two-year public broadcasting authorization bill, providing for funding at a total of $155 million. Currently, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) receives $35 million in appropriated funds, based on a continuing authorization for Fiscal Year 1973. A bill has passed the Senate providing a two-year $140 million authorization. House hearings on this bill, and the Administration’s proposed one-year authorization at $45 million, begin June 11.
During the past four months there has been a great deal of ferment in public broadcasting, including charges that the Administration has attempted to influence CPB to preclude funding of news and public affairs programs unfavorable to the Administration and to dismantle the public broadcasting network. This has led to a compromise between the Corporation and the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS, the station organization that operates the network). Key elements of the compromise give CPB a direct voice in determining the funding and scheduling of programs, rather than leaving the choice entirely to PBS. Moreover, questions of balance and objectivity will be determined prior to airing by CPB and PBS directors jointly. The compromise would establish a system of checks and balances between the boards of 230 local stations, and the centralized program staffs of CPB and PBS, and the CPB board.
The compromise does not achieve all that we would like, but it represents a substantial improvement over the situation that existed prior to your veto. Moreover, during the next year we will appoint seven of the fifteen-man CPB Board of Directors. Therefore, the combination of an acceptable compromise and the seven board appointments leads me to believe that the time is ripe for a change in our approach to public broadcasting.
There are two alternative approaches: (1) continue to stress problems and dangers in public broadcasting and veto a two-year authorization bill; (2) accept a two-year authorization, but at a lower funding level, and build on the present CPB/PBS compromise to achieve a broader legislative consensus, which would seek a longer-range authorization and more decentralized, local control of funds and programs veto — if sustained — would keep public broadcasting dependent upon annual appropriations and check the tendency toward network operations stressing journalistic enterprises. However, it would accomplish little more, if anything, than what we have already accomplished with last year’s veto, and it would worsen the Administration’s public posture of being against public broadcasting generally. The advantages of the consensus approach are that we could limit the increases in the funding by agreeing not to veto a two-year authorization. We would also avoid the potentially divisive battle to sustain a new veto and improve our chances of continuing to have a voice on the future directions of public broadcasting. The disadvantages are that the Corporation would have increased funding over a longer period of time before all the major issues regarding its objectives are resolved.
I recommended that we follow the consensus approach and take the following steps. Prior to my public broadcasting testimony next week, I will discuss our position with the Subcommittee Chairman (Torbert Macdonald) and with key Republicans (Sam Devine and Bud Brown). In exchange for our agreement not to fight a two-year bill, I shall seek to have the level of funding reduced to around $100 million for two years. In my testimony, however, I shall continue to oppose mildly two-year funding.
I will also support, albeit with reservations, the CPB/PBS compromise as a step in the right direction. I will announce our desire to reopen discussions to seek a broader consensus on longer range funding for public broadcasting. The objective is to gain support for a legislative restructuring of the public broadcasting system that will emphasize the role of the local station in decentralizing funding and programming decisions, stress cultural and educational programs, and deemphasize government-funded news programming.
On June 12, Whitehead testified before the House Communications Subcommittee. In his prepared statement he praised the new Partnership Agreement. At the same time, he urged Congress to vote a one-year authorization for CPB at $45 million in order to allow time to assess CPB’s “progress in its new partnership role with PBS.”
On June 14, Goldberg informed Whitehead that he had seen a letter from Rogers, Chairman of PBS, and Killian, Chairman of CPB, to the President requesting a meeting.
On June 15, Whitehead sent a memo to Dave Parker of the White House staff opposing such a meeting.
Both Killian and Rogers have shown a marked disinclination to discuss their objectives with us. Indeed, over the past few months they have strongly (sic) critical of the Administration’s goals for public broadcasting and have accused us of attempting to starve or suffocate public broadcasting in order to undercut public broadcasting’s ability to criticize the Administration.
In this regard, I think it would be a big mistake for the President to meet with these men, especially with the CPB funding still pending on the Hill, and I strongly oppose such a meeting.
Whitehead’s recommendation echoed that of Paulson, who had counseled against the President’s meeting with Killian and Rogers in a June 14 memo to Parker. In his memo, Paulson characterized Killian and Rogers as critics of the Administration:
James Killian is a Johnson appointee who was recently elected CPB Chairman in a display of independence by the Board, after the previous Chairman, Tom Curtis, resigned charging the Administration attempted to influence the Corporation to preclude funding of news and public affairs programs. Under the leadership of Killian, who supports the airing of public affairs shows, CPB worked out a compromise with PBS which established procedures for the broadcast of public affairs programs.
Ralph Rogers, the PBS Chairman, is a wealthy Texas businessman, former Finance Chairman of George Bush’s Senate campaign and a self-proclaimed supporter of the President. Nonetheless, he has opposed almost every aspect of the Administration’s public broadcasting posture, actively working to reestablish public affairs shows and criticizing the Administration for putting public broadcasting on a ” starvation diet.”
On July 16, Killian called Whitehead’s office to suggest a list of people who might be considered for the two candidacies on the CPB Board and the five director positions which were to become vacant the following March.
On July 19 Whitehead sent his own recommendations for the, two existing Board vacancies to David Wimer in the White House appointments office. The two people Whitehead recommended were Virginia Duncan, a California Democrat whom Whitehead described as “a strong supporter of the President,” and Dr. John Millet, an Ohio Republican whom Whitehead said “also strongly supports the President’s position on public television and would work closely with Congressman Brown” (the ranking Republican on the House Communications Subcommittee)
On July 27, Whitehead responded to an OMB request for OTP’s views on S. 1090, the Pastore-Magnuson bill CPB which Congress had passed and sent to the President for signature. Reviewing the events of the previous months, Whitehead recommended that the President approve S. 1090:
S. 1090 essentially provides for a two-year authorization for appropriations for public broadcasting: $50 million in fiscal 74 and $60 million in fiscal 75, plus $5 million annually in matching funds for the Corporation, and a total of $55 million for educational broadcasting facilities in these fiscal years for the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare’s Educational Broadcast Facilities Program. In addition, S. 1090 adds a new requirement that educational broadcast licensees record broadcasts in which an issue of public importance is discussed, and maintain such records, available to the Federal Communications Commission and the public, for a period of sixty days.
The Administration had requested only a one-year authorization to public broadcasting: $40 million for fiscal 74, plus $5 million in matching funds for the Corporation, and $13 million for HEW’s facilities program for that year.
This request reflected serious concerns regarding the many unresolved issues then facing federally funded public broadcasting, issues including the role of local stations, the proper apportionment of funds among the Corporation and local licensees, a trend towards centralized control, and use of federal funds to sponsor highly controversial public affairs programming.
Steps recently have been taken, however, that answer some of these questions, and we believe further resolution of the issues remaining can be accomplished within the framework of this legislation.
On August 6, President Nixon signed the two-year authorization measure. At the next day’s White House press briefing, Jerry Warren told reporters:
The President’s signing of this bill reflects his view that public broadcasting has much to offer the American people in the presentation of educational and cultural programs of quality and distinction.
The benefits of public broadcast are best achieved, we believe, when every element of the system is committed to the principle of localism embodied in the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967. Under this principle, the individual educational radio and television stations are oriented to the service of the local listeners and viewers.
The bill that the President signed yesterday, Senate Bill 1090, we believe, will further the goal of this principle, achieving this principle of localism and represents the Administration’s continued support. At the same time, there remain significant questions as yet to be resolved, including the proper relationship of local educational radio and television to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and other national public broadcast entities. These also include the proper allocation of funds among the national entities and the local stations, and the role of public broadcasting in the Nation’s life.
As these questions are being resolved, both the Congress and the Executive Branch can provide the necessary budget oversight and review of the system under the bill that was signed yesterday, which is an authorization bill and which extends the Corporation’s authorization for two years.
On September 20, Killian wrote the President on behalf of the CPB Board “to urge that the two vacancies on the Board be filled at the earliest practical time.
“The Board has a heavy budget of work, and a full complement of members is needed to discharge its responsibilities…,” Killian explained.
Killian also took the occasion to express the Board’s appreciation for the President’s approval of the two-year authorization.
In early October, Whitehead drafted a Memorandum for the President in which he summarized recent developments in public broadcasting and urged prompt action to fill the two vacancies on the CPB Board. In Paulson’s absence, he sent a copy of the memo to Ken Cole, Executive Director of the Domestic Council.
Public Affairs Shows
The Ford Foundation, subject to their Board’s approval, will soon announce a phase-out of public TV funding over the next 3-5 years. Because of McGeorge Bundy and Fred Friendly, Ford has been the largest force behind public affairs shows on public TV. This step, together with a reduction in CPB’s funding of public affairs shows, is a hopeful sign of progress. However, CPB staff and officials of the public TV network (PBS) , and many officials in the local stations still want a strong complement of public affairs programming and the press corps is highly supportive. We have gone about as far as we can go in getting such programs reduced with our old strategy. The emphasis now should, I believe, shift to getting a solid majority on the CPB Board and taking a positive approach to longer range funding for CPB as discussed below.
The ACLU has sued Pat Buchanan and me, along with CPB, alleging illegal government interference in CPB operations and seeking injunctive relief. We do not expect much to come of this, but we are keeping contacts with CPB to a minimum.
After five years of Administration efforts, public broadcasting is being substantially redirected, but the CPB Board is still evenly divided on key issues. Our supporters on the Board (Jack Wrather, Al Cole, Neal Freeman, Irving Kristol, and Tom Moore) have asked me to advise you of this and to urge prompt action in naming outstanding people to the two Board vacancies, paying particular attention to a potential Chairman. Unless we do make strong appointments now (and in March when the terms of the last LBJ appointees expire) , we are likely to lose such active support as we now have on the Board. We simply cannot solidify the changes we have been seeking without a strong Chairman and a strong Board majority committed to our principles.
Whitehead went on to recommend Dr. Allen Wallis, President of the University of Rochester, and Virginia Duncan, a film maker and former TV producer, for the two vacancies.
Whitehead then turned to the subject of long-term funding:
Although you signed a two-year authorization for CPB providing $55 and $65 million for FY74 and 75, CPB’ s in the Labor-HEW appropriation and continues at $35 million annually. To summarize the recent developments, we have reversed much of the centralization we based last year’s veto upon, Ford is phasing out, and public affairs programming is on the downswing. We have, therefore, few grounds for opposing longer range funding. Long-range funding is supported not only in the Congress, but by our friends on the Board who feel they have “done a job” for us and want tangible evidence of support from the
Administration. John Pastore is greatly upset by our attacks on CPB, and it has seriously deteriorated our relations with him on all communications issues. Our support of longer range funding would help this situation immensely.
With your approval, I plan, therefore, to develop a long-range funding plan for your consideration as part of the Administration program for next year, stressing decentralization (to minimize the network character of the system), matching of non-Federal funds (to keep the Federal share down), and periodic review by Congress (to keep the use of the Federal funds under scrutiny).
On October 14, Patrick Buchanan, Special Assistant to the President, sent Paulson his comments on Whitehead’s memo:
My view is that we should not quit; we should hold their feet to the fire; the President has the power to veto, and we should not hesitate to employ it on public broadcasting if that institution continues to provide cozy sinecures for our less competent journalistic adversaries. If they are going to have public broadcasting, and they are going to overload it against us, why should we approve of any public funding at all. In that event, I would bite the bullet, and keep them at the present level of funding ad infinitum. As for the Ford Foundation decision to get out, I will believe that when I see it. As for the long-range planning, I don’t think we have yet gotten the kind of reforms needed. My personal view at this point is that we would be as well off with not having the taxpayers to contribute a single cent to public television — unless there is a clear, marked disposition to provide balance on commentary, and localism in programming.
The next day, Paulson received comments from White House Press Secretary, Ron Ziegler:
I concur with Whitehead’s recommendation about filling the vacancies on the CPB Board. We should move immediately to appoint Wallis, with the understanding he be elected Chairman. Virginia Duncan is an unknown, but I have no reason to object to her appointment. By copy of this memorandum, I am alerting Jerry Jones of the importance I attach to filling these vacancies expeditiously.
Nothing should hold Whitehead back from developing a long-range funding plan for Public Broadcasting. I understand, from Henry Loomis, that the CPB has proposed to us, and to the Congress, a fairly detailed long-range plan, calling for matching funds and providing for a periodic review by the Congress of the Corporation’s work. Whitehead should submit a long-term funding proposal, as an alternative to continued short-term funding, with a full discussion of the pros and cons of each.
Whitehead’s memorandum could be interpreted as a request for a Presidential sign off on the long-term funding approach. This must not be the case. Assuming the President’s agreement, Whitehead should be put on notice that the President’s agreement only relates to the formulation of long-term funding alternatives, and does not mean final agreement on the President’s part to the long-term funding concept.
On October 22, Paulson received still more comments from Bill Timmons, the White House Congressional liaison:
1. CPB funding is in the current HEW-Labor Appropriations bill. However, this measure is heading for a veto as a budget buster.
2. Senator Hugh Scott had a friend appointed to the Board of CPB that apparently would be replaced by one of the candidates in the memorandum. Scott has talked to many of us, including Peter Flanigan, about reappointment for his pal. To do otherwise would cause difficulties with any legislation or appropriations.
3. I frankly doubt there is much support in Congress for long range financing of CPB since the trend is for annual review, if not appropriations. As a controversial agency, CPB will certainly remain under the Congressional microscope. However, this is probably worth a try.