Patricia Harrison, the controversial candidate for the CPB presidency favored by Board Chairman Kenneth Tomlinson, has been named President and CEO, AP reports. CPB announced the appointment in a news release as the House debated funding for public broadcasting.
Who supports public broadcasting? In the heat of battle over federal funding to the field, “Democrats in Congress and liberal organizations have emerged as public broadcasting’s most visible and vocal supporters, while Republicans and conservatives have stayed mostly silent,” reports the Washington Post.
“The White House is always looking for liberal bias in the news media, and I can help them find it,” writes John Carroll of the San Francisco Chronicle. “I can monitor my own column, and write detailed reports about the bias therein.” (Via Romenesko.)
“Mr. Tomlinson has not politicized PBS. Bill Moyers politicized PBS.” So said George Neumayr, executive editor of American Spectator magazine, who appeared on last night’s NewsHour with Kansas City PTV President Bill Reed. “Oh, Bill Moyers — you know, Bill Moyers retired. He keeps bringing up Bill Moyers,” Reed said.
“The appointment of the CPB ombudsmen has, indeed, accomplished something: It has sown doubts (or reinforced existing ones) among many listeners (and viewers) that there is something fundamentally wrong at NPR and PBS,” writes NPR ombud Jeffrey Dvorkin in his latest column. (Via Romenesko.)
Slate reviews MSNBC’s new talk show, The Situation with Tucker Carlson, finding it “shallow, but far from unwatchable; it zips along at a healthy clip, getting in a few good digs along the way, and next thing you know it’s over, and you’re no worse off than you were before.”
The executive committee of NETA, one of the largest associations of pubTV stations, told the CPB Board in a letter May 31 that it had gone about its balancing efforts in the wrong way — at the national level. The letter explained: “…The solutions will not be found in press statements or surreptitious studies. Instead, bring them to the licensees. We have a direct relationship with our audience and we have the authority and responsibility to act.”The Organization of State Broadcasting Executives, representing 32 “primarily rural” pubcasting systems, urged CPB Chair Ken Tomlinson June 16 to speak out today for full restoration of federal aid to pubcasting, without which stations will close in some rural communities. OSBE also noted: “…if it is not obvious to us that the search process [for the new CPB president] has been conducted in a professional, unbiased and transparent manner, how can we assure our constituents and our supporters of public broadcasting’s journalistic integrity.”
This essay appeared in the Washington Post June 21, 2005, after Bill Moyers retired from hosting the PBS weekly public affairs program. I must be the luckiest man in television for having been a part of the public broadcasting community for over half my life. I was present at the creation. As a 30-year-old White House policy assistant in 1964, I attended the first meeting at the Office of Education to discuss the potential of “educational television,” which in turn led to the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967. When I left the White House that year to become publisher of Newsday, I did fundraising chores for Channel Thirteen in New York and appeared on its local newscasts.
Documentary filmmakers Tracy Strain and Randall MacLowry were to marry yesterday, according to the New York Times. They recently collaborated on “Building the Alaska Highway,” an American Experience film.
While the CPB Board meets in D.C. this week, critics are planning events criticizing plans to hire a Republican leader as CPB president. On Monday, leaders of Common Cause and Free Press and media watchdog Jeff Chester plan to give CPB 150,000 petitions opposing partisan meddling with CPB. On Tuesday, children’s TV advocate Peggy Charren will join Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) in an event on Capitol Hill, Broadcasting & Cable reported (sub required).
Groups of senators and representatives wrote to CPB on Friday urging that it delay the appointment of a new president. Twenty-one reps asked CPB to begin a “transparent and nonpartisan search” to fill the job. Democratic Sens. Byron Dorgan, Hillary Clinton and Frank Lautenberg questioning board Chairman Ken Tomlinson’s plan to hire the former chief of the Republican party (PDF): “We find it astonishing that [Patricia] Harrison, given her former prominence as a partisan political figure, would be even considered as a candidate for a job that demands that the occupant be nonpolitical.” APTS earlier told CPB it would oppose acts that violate, or appear to violate, pubcasters’ independence.Earlier in the week on the Senate floor, Dorgan said it was “pretty unseemly” that CPB had spent public money to monitor whether remarks on public TV were “anti-Bush” or “pro-Bush.” Those were terms the senator saw in raw data from a CPB consultant’s evaluation of Bill Moyers’ Now. He noted that some of the evaluations were erroneous, such as one classifying conservative Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) as a “liberal,” because Hagel had questioned White House strategy in Iraq.
Through the progressive advocacy website MoveOn.org, more than 769,000 Web users have sent messages to Congress backing pubcasting: “Congress must save NPR, PBS and local public stations. We trust them for in-depth news and educational children’s programming. It’s money well spent.”
A coalition of citizen groups including Common Cause and Free Press has urged CPB Chairman Ken Tomlinson to postpone the board’s vote on a new CPB president, now planned for Monday or Tuesday. The groups’ letter yesterday suggests that Tomlinson’s supposed candidate for the job, State Department official Patricia Harrison, got “inappropriately favorable consideration” because she and Tomlinson have worked together on U.S. propaganda efforts overseas.
The House Appropriations Committee approved a bill last night that cuts pubcasting’s total 2006 funding by more than 40 percent. It would reduce CPB funding from $400 million to $300 million, eliminate the $23 million Ready to Learn program and deny requests for $39 million in digital transition funding and $50 million to replace the aging pubTV satellite system. But the committee approved a Democratic amendment that restores the traditional congressional practice of funding CPB two years in advance, earmarking $400 million for 2008. Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) told Reuters he will try to add funding for pubcasting when the bill comes to the House floor. The full House is expected to take up the bill next week, according to the Los Angeles Times.
“The Bush administration is introducing a political agenda to public broadcasting,” writes columnist Molly Ivins. “They are using the lame pretext that PBS is somehow liberal to justify [turning] it into a propaganda organ for the government.”