Tuesday, November 15, 2005

CPB Report Tells Only Part of the Story

Friend of Ken
An Inspector General report released Tuesday by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting exposes a politically-motivated scheme by former chairman Kenneth Tomlinson to meddle with programming on PBS and NPR. But the report stops short of implicating the remaining leadership at the agency, and fails to reveal the extent to which the White House orchestrated Tomlinson's moves.

Missing from the report is email traffic between Tomlinson and White House political advisor Karl Rove, reportedly provided to Inspector General Kenneth Konz by investigators at the State Department. This evidence, which reveals the White House's hand in manipulations of public broadcasting programming, is still under lock and key at the heavily partisan CPB.

The 67-page report by Konz concluded that Tomlinson violated the Public Broadcasting Act on repeated occasions, leading a dysfunctional agency -- created to protect broadcast programming from politics -- in a crusade against what he saw as "liberal advocacy journalism" on PBS and NPR.

It reveals that Tomlinson and other conservative members on the board used "political tests" as a "major criteria" in hiring Patricia Harrison, a former chairwoman of the Republican Party, to be CPB president. The report also said "cryptic" e-mails between Tomlinson and the White House indicated by their timing and subject matter that Tomlinson "was strongly motivated by political considerations in filling the president/CEO position."

The IG document, however, does not reveal these emails. Nor does it share the reported emails between Tomlinson and his "close friend" Rove.

According to a Nov 5 article in the New York Times, State Department investigators seized records of this e-mail traffic from the Broadcasting Board of Governors and handed it over to Konz. But it’s gone AWOL from today’s CPB release.

Mysteriously, Konz's report mentions a “separate investigative report, along with specific evidence indicating possible wrongdoing,” that he made available to the CPB board. This separate report could contain the Rove-Tomlinson traffic but it’s still unavailable to public eyes.

Red State Ken
According to the document that Konz did publish, Tomlinson “violated his fiduciary responsibilities and statutory prohibitions against Board member involvement in programming decisions” in creating the conservative “Journal Editorial Report.” He was deeply engaged in that process as an effort, as he sees it, to "demand political balance in public broadcasting." The rhetoric of “balance” has become a shibboleth for right-wing efforts to quash dissenting views and turn media into a mouthpiece for the Bush administration.

The published report also criticizes the secretive hiring of Republican operative Frederick Mann to monitor "Now with Bill Moyers" and other programs without authorization from the CPB Board. It concludes the many violations were primarily the result of Tomlinson's "personal actions to accomplish his various initiatives," but it also identifies "serious weaknesses" throughout the CPB's governance system.

The report that was released makes it abundantly clear that officials at the top of the organization were conspiring to subject America's public broadcasting system to a politcial litmus test.

Tomlinson stepped down from the CPB Board on Nov. 3 upon learning of the report's findings. The remaining leadership of the CPB have close ties the Bush administration. Chairwoman Cheryl Halpern and Vice Chairwoman Gay Hart Gaines are veteran GOP operatives and mega-fundraisers, who have praised Tomlinson for "his legitimate efforts to achieve balance and objectivity in public broadcasting." Tomlinson’s hand-picked choice to run the CPB, Harrison, recently oversaw "public diplomacy" efforts at the State Department.

It’s clear that Tomlinson isn't the lone culprit at CPB. Its board members and staff are continuing his work to undermine the foundation of public broadcasting.

But to learn more about the extent to which Rove was involved, Congress needs to turn up the pressure to disclose all the evidence that Konz and the CPB have on hand.


peacemom said...

PBS appeared to be the last stronghold of media independence, DARING to take public funds for its sustenance.

But the warnings were loud and clear when Tomlinson came on board. It's not a bit better now. The new manipulators of news and views are still in cahoots with Rove.

Check out real news:

ws said...

The appointment of Tomlinson, Harrison, and other like minded zealots to positions of power in PBS and CPB was the result of over 30 years planning and work by right wing extremists and reactionaries. It remains to be seen if more moderate activists can reverse this coup.
ws blog

Anonymous said...

Try reading the report and the CPB charter. While Tomlinsons efforts were valid the IG concluded but that his methods weren't. And that is the conflict between no political interference and the objectivity and balance, both required in the charter.

The IG recommended that a methodology for determining the latter be developed.

Anonymous said...

Timothy, you really displayed your political immaturity in your recommendations for the new 13 member CPB. "Members of both parties"-what a ridiculous recommendation. We must move in this country towards a multiple party system so continuing in any way the conventional "2 party" system is only ripe for further corruption down the road. I do not agree with any of your recommendations frankly! I would do away with the CPB completely, in it's stead I would place local community board oversight with community boards being mandated to reflect the diversification with respect to women, race, sexuality and religions that is mirrored in the community. These community boards would be 1/2 elected by the public and 1/2 appointed by the local public broadcasting stations themselves and would have ultimate control over all programming decisions in a community after public hearings on the issues brought to the board. Shame on you for continuing the same old ruling elitist recommendations!!!!!!!!!
Dr. Lora in Chicago