CPB’s website, as of February 2013, carries this document, “Revised February 1, 2011,” redefining the assignment of its ombudsman. Kenneth Tomlinson, past chair of the CPB Board, had prompted controversy by hiring two ombudsmen in April 2005. Charter Establishing the CPB Office of the Ombudsman
The founders of public broadcasting saw a clear need for a “system-wide process of exerting upward pressure on standards of taste and performance.” (The 1967 Carnegie Commission Report, p.36) In addition, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) was expected to become the “center of leadership” with a “primary mission…to extend and improve . . .
The same week former CPB Chairman Kenneth Tomlinson resigned from the CPB Board, public TV stations received a low-key announcement that the Wall Street Journal would soon end production of the conservative news analysis series he aggressively championed. Journal Editorial Report, which Tomlinson saw as an antidote to Bill Moyers’ provocative liberal commentaries on Now, will wrap its final PBS program Dec. 2. The controversy over how it came to PBS — especially as details of the process were revealed last week — demonstrated that when politics enters pubTV editorial decisions, none of the players emerges unscathed. Producers for Dow Jones Television, an affiliate of the Journal, initially didn’t explain why they canned the show, but in an unsigned op-ed Nov.
Are CPB’s new ombudsmen promoters of healthy journalistic discussion or unwelcome monitors now peering over reporters’ shoulders? It depends whom you ask. As longtime journalists Ken Bode and William Schulz last week issued their first reports, observers both inside and outside public broadcasting questioned their appointments. CPB officials, among others in the system, said public broadcasting will benefit from the new oversight. Bode’s and Schulz’s first missives had only minor quibbles with recent NPR reports on Iraq.