CPB Head Charges 'Bias'

Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) recently launched a campaign to make PBS' coverage of current events more "fair and balanced," according the New York Times. The Times reported that without the board's knowledge, Tomlinson hired an outside consultant last year to track
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Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) recently launched a campaign to make PBS' coverage of current events more "fair and balanced," according the New York Times.

The Times reported that without the board's knowledge, Tomlinson hired an outside consultant last year to track the political flavor of the guests of "Now with Bill Moyers," using "anti-Bush," "anti-business" and "anti-Tom DeLay" as descriptors for the show's guests. Moyers resigned and was replaced by David Brancaccio, former host of the public radio program, "Marketplace."

The one-hour show, simply called "Now," was shaved down 30 minutes, and continues covering hard-hitting topics such as the FCC's votes on media ownership rules and the plight of the people of Darfur. "Now" has been criticized for being overly harsh towards the Bush Administration, but in a letter to the Times, reader Charles Merrill succinctly reminded readers what he, and many others believe is the role of journalism. "The job of the press is to scrutinize government, not praise it."

Tomlinson helped promote "The Journal Editorial Report" hosted by Paul Gigot--editor of the Wall Street Journal's conservative editorial page--as the answer to the so-called left-leaning "Now."

Tomlinson, a Republican, said that he is just "striving for balance and had no desire to impose a political view on programming, " although a November meeting with the Association of Public Television Stations in Baltimore indicates otherwise. Tomlinson said to PBS officials that they should ensure that the public broadcaster's programming better reflect a Republican mandate. Tomlinson said that his comment was a joke, but some audience members were not convinced.

Additionally, he named Patricia Harrison as his choice to replace Kathleen Cox, the corporation's president/CEO whose contract was not renewed in April, although former FCC media bureau chief Ken Ferree is currently serving in that role in the interim. Harrison--a former co-chair of the Republican National Committee--currently serves as assistant secretary of state.

Meanwhile, opponents to Tomlinson have started a campaign to have him removed from the CPB Board. The Web site "freepress.net" is asking visitors to the site to e-mail comments to legislators to "save PBS from partisan operatives."

Tomlinson's "top down partisan meddling goes against the very nature of PBS, and the local stations we trust," said Timothy Karr, campaign director for freepress.net. "Let the people speak and decide the future of PBS, not secret dealings by the White House."