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Local Public Television Stations Call for Major Reform of the CPB Board

The Association of Public Television Stations (APTS) released a legislative package to reform the governance of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB). The proposed legislative changes, approved by the association’s board of directors, are designed to elevate the professionalism of the CPB board, ensure that local public stations remain the focus of CPB support, de-politicize the governance of the CPB board, and further guarantee the editorial integrity of public broadcasting.

In releasing the proposed package, APTS President and CEO John Lawson said: “The abuses of the previous CPB board chairman bring to light the need for meaningful reforms. What happens at CPB has a real effect on local public television and radio stations – the heart and soul of public broadcasting – and the communities we serve. Our board has brought forward a set of principled, long-term solutions to ensure sound, bi-partisan governance of CPB.”

At its annual meeting last weekend in Annapolis, MD, the board of directors of APTS Action, the advocacy arm of the association, voted unanimously to endorse the reform proposals. The board is composed entirely of managers and lay representatives of local public television stations. The proposals put forward by the board include:

-Increasing professionalism and local station representation by requiring that at least two of the political appointments be representatives from public television stations and at least two be representatives of public radio stations. Currently, one seat each is reserved for public television and radio station representatives. The reforms also call for greater station participation in consultations on all CPB funding decisions.

-Restoring political balance by reducing to eight the number of seats reserved on the CPB board for political appointments by the president, with no more than four being members of the same political party. Currently, the president can appoint five members of his own party to a nine-person board. As now, Senate confirmation would be required for these seats.

-De-politicizing and further professionalizing the CPB board by adding five voting ex officio seats designated for persons that lead five other national arts, cultural and scientific organizations. This change is consistent with the 1979 report of the Carnegie Commission on the Future of Public Broadcasting.

-Promoting transparency of CPB board actions by explicitly requiring that the CPB board meet in open session, with only narrowly defined exceptions.

-Further ensuring balance by requiring that the CPB board chair and vice-chair not be from the same political party.

-Further de-politicizing the organization by explicitly prohibiting the CPB board and management from hiring outside political lobbyists or consultants.

Lawson noted: “Our board also supports a strong CPB Code of Ethics and strict adherence to that code by the board of CPB. Depending upon the report of the CPB Inspector General and the response of the CPB board to it, we may consider further legislative options.”

Lawson concluded: “These reforms are designed to ensure that, to the extent possible, Washington politics are removed from the way that CPB is run.” The reform package will be vetted with the association’s member stations in November and, after their input, will be finalized and presented in a timely manner to the U.S. Congress.