Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Tomlinson's Tone Deafness

Failure to Communicate
CPB head Kenneth Tomlinson continues to parrot the language of "objectivity and balance" to justify his partisan crusade against PBS. The rhetoric, however, conceals a brazen attempt to hoodwink Americans into believing that PBS is in need of an overhaul.

Thus far public opinion has said otherwise. And new evidence reveals that Tomlinson has turned a blind eye to the people that he is sworn to serve, which is why nearly 40,000 Americans are now calling for him to step down.

The CPB head's true mission -- which he shares with acting president Kenneth Ferree -- is to serve the Republican Party and remake our PBS into another White House mouthpiece. The views of an overwhelming majority of Americans have no part in this partisan plan.

Earlier this week Ferree urged public broadcasting executives that "CPB, funded as it is with taxpayer dollars and guided as it is by statutory language, has special responsibilities to strive toward objectivity and balance." Tomlinson was more direct than Ferree when he told the New York Times: "I frankly feel at PBS headquarters there is a tone deafness to issues of tone and balance."

But those casting stones from CPB suffer from a deafness all their own. Before launching Tomlinson’s campaign for more "objectivity and balance" at PBS, CPB commissioned GOP pollster Tarrance Group to survey public opinion about PBS bias.

Here’s what the pollsters found:
  • 80% of Americans found PBS programming to be "fair and balanced"
  • 90% agreed PBS "provides high quality programming"
  • More than 50% said that PBS news and information is more trustworthy than CNN, Fox News Channel and other mainstream news outlets
CPB commissioned this poll but opted to suppress the results and didn’t release it to the press, PBS or NPR.

So what’s the real problem Ken?

It’s not bias at PBS but bias within the CPB. The organization that Congress put in place to act as a "heat shield" protecting broadcasters from undue political influence has been overrun by GOP operatives with a plan to fix a system that Americans overwhelmingly say is not broken.

The New York Times editorial page suggested that Tomlinson and his Republican cronies at CPB may have a larger agenda: "to 'hollow out' public broadcasting and fill it with programming that suits their political agenda. And if public broadcasting becomes too political to suit all but the most loyal Republicans or too boring in the name of balance, that could mean the slow death of such broadcasting, which could have been the goal all along."

Tomlinson has ignored public opinion and charged forward with a top-down, partisan approach to control public broadcasting. This is not about left right bias at PBS, but about political operatives intent upon hijacking the people’s airwaves for partisan gain. For this alone, Tomlinson needs to go.


Anonymous said...

Perhaps we need to get rid of CPB as well? As a heat shield against undue political influence, it looks more like swiss cheese. The money spent on funding CPB could well be used to fund PBS and NPR with better bang for the taxpayer's buck. How about a REAL ombudsman office that would be a guardian at the gate for any issues of political pressure and tell the folks at CPB to take a walk. If they go quickly, I'm sure there are plenty of jobs available in the current administration.

As to Mr. Ferree, he needs to spend some time in the cruel world of job hunting. How can someone aspire to become CEO of an organization when he doesn't know anything about its product? Evidently, from recent interviews, he says he doesn't doesn't have the time or interest. Wrong answer! In today's job market, he wouldn't even make it to the first interview.

Tomlinson needs to go back to his own testimony before a Congressional subcommittee on February 10, 2004. As the Chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors that oversees VOA and other international media outlets, he put forth a strong case for preserving and strengthening truth and free and open discussion. In fact, he admits that while he values the presentation of America's message to the world, it can't be allowed to interfere with the truth.
"It is very important that government spokesmen take America's message to the world -- passionately and relentlessly. We should not be ashamed of public advocacy on behalf of freedom and democracy and the United States of America.
International broadcasting on the other hand is called upon to reflect the highest standards of independent journalism as the best means of demonstrating to international audiences that truth is on the side of democratic values.
These arms of public diplomacy should be parallel pursuits because the effectiveness of either is adversely affected when one attempts to impose its approach on the other."

Earlier in his statement regarding Alhurra, the new Arabic satellite TV service, he said:
"Our competitive edge in the Middle East is our very dedication to truth and free and open debate. And we will stand out like a beacon of light in a media market dominated by sensationalism and distortion"
Mr. Tomlinson may have forgotten his statements. Wouldn't the same standards he holds so sacred would be even more important to the domestic side of the media?

Anonymous said...

What is with these conservatives? They have to have their hands and thoughts in every aspect of our lives. I wish they would stop trying to indoctrinate Americans into their little group. Public broadcasting is just that, public, not just the right. It seems that their motto is "if it isn't broken, fix it". There is nothing sacred to these people. Not even the Bible that they thump so well. If it were, they wouldn't be so hot to create a world that God won't even recognize any more. Are they that scared of ideas and thoughts that didn't come from a conservative that they need to wipe out any sign that Americans were ever anything but conservative right wing Republican Christians? They can change or reform anything they want but they can't change or reform the way I think. They never have and never will.

Anonymous said...

These people are SERIOUSLY pissing me off.

Their campaigns against "the liberal agenda" are bad enough - but when they start messing with things like PBS, and the public library (The FDR library telling a forum group that they couldn't use the library for a meeting place unless they included a speaker in favor of Bush's SS overhaul as a "balance" to the forum's views...never mind that it was a discussion group, not a political one) they have crossed into a realm of arrogance and partisan destructiveness that not only infuriates me, but bodes ill for the future of this country having ANY resemblance to what the Founders so bravely and carefully crafted.

In other words - This Means War.

Anonymous said...

Ah, yes, the philistines have finally discovered the value in having PBS at their disposal.

And disposal is the right word, as in 'garbage disposal'. That's what these know-nothings will be using the PBS network for in the years to come.

We can only thank thirty years of dumbing down in America for this final, fitting outcome. Welcome to the future.

FOX now has five--FIVE--programs in its weekly schedule that are simply cartoons for adults.


Simpsons, Futurama, Family Guy, that redneck program, and a new entrant, American Dad (or whatever).

At the same time, PBS has cut Moyers' NOW in half, and given a half hour a week to Tucker Carlson.

Is it any wonder that people believe that Saddam Hussein personally flew a suicide mission into the World Trade Center in 2001? Only to surface--devil incarnate--in a spider hole in Iraq to be captured and jailed for the eternal aggrandizement of George W. Bush, the President who never accomplished a thing in his life that money couldn't buy for him.