William Schulz and Ken Bode, CPB's dual-track ombudsmen

The ombuddies: Minor attention to balance

Inspector General Kenneth A. Konz found fault with much of former Chairman Kenneth Tomlinson’s balance crusade, but his report did validate the creation of CPB’s ombudsmen, the corporation’s stated tool for dealing with audience concerns about program balance and objectivity. While Konz criticized the unilateral manner in which Tomlinson selected veteran journalists Ken Bode and William Schulz, he concluded that “by expanding the public’s ability to have issues of objectivity and balance addressed,” the addition of ombudsmen was “consistent with” CPB’s responsibilities (separate story). “The legislative statute requires that public broadcasting be objective and balanced,” Chair Cheryl Halpern told reporters in September. “The ombudsmen were put in place to [help] CPB function within the constraints of the legislation.” But more than six months after CPB engaged Bode and Schulz to assess program balance and objectivity and handle complaints, they have seldom written on these issues in general terms and not once have they responded to audience concerns about the balance and objectivity of specific programs.

When CPB set the ombudsmen to work, Tomlinson told Current they would review news content, but many of their reports have focused on cultural documentaries that aren’t particularly journalistic, such as No Direction Home: Bob Dylan, Richard Rodgers: The Sweetest of Sounds, and The Appalachians. CPB posts their reports on CPB.org [URL updated].

Ed Asney in staging of Monkey Trial transcript

Monkey trial still timely for tour of radio docudrama

Ed Asner takes the role of Bryan, not Darrow, in LATW’s drama based on the Scopes transcript. John de Lancie, at right, plays Darrow. Susan Loewenberg chose a radio play about the Scopes trial for L.A. Theatre Works’ 2005 national tour because it’s the one that teachers request most from the company’s catalog of more than 200 recorded plays. The teachers seemed to be saying the evolution/creation fight is an enduring topic in our national life and not just a quirky little philosophical eruption that excuses a quick revival of The Great Tennessee Monkey Trial. Indeed, as Ed Asner started off the tour last week as William Jennings Bryan, defender of creation, in Arcata, Calif., a new evolution trial was under way in court in Dover, Pa.

“When they start pushing the panic button over ‘moral values’ . . .

… at the bluest of TV channels, public broadcasting’s WNET, in the bluest of cities, New York, you know this country has entered a new cultural twilight zone,” writes New York Times columnist Frank Rich. WNET’s decision to kill a spot on the feature film, Kinsey, is a harbinger of the battles ahead as “politicians and the media alike pander to that supposed 22 percent of ‘moral values’ voters.”

Is Tinky a gay role model for boys, or a purple toddler in full play?

International stardom has not been easy for Tinky Winky, the Teletubby recently “outed” by the Rev. Jerry Falwell as a gay role-model for children. First there was a big flap in England, shortly after the show’s 1997 debut, over the dismissal of the actor playing Tinky Winky. Producers said he had been too rambunctious on the set. But the actor apparently endeared himself to viewers by flamboyantly waving the now-notorious red handbag, and did not go quietly. The Sun, Britain’s largest tabloid, launched a campaign to reinstate the actor, but to no avail.