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Tomlinson Quits CPB

Kenneth Tomlinson, the embattled former chief of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, officially severed ties with the group this week after the agency's inspector general issued a report critical of his leadership.

The inspector general, who was looking into accusations that Tomlinson used agency funds to hire consultants and lobbyists without notifying the CPB board, will make his report public later this month. Tomlinson has come under fire for criticizing what he considers the left-leaning slant of PBS shows; his term as chairman of the CPB ended in September.

Earlier in the week, lobbyists for public broadcasters called for reforms in the way CPB conducts business. The APTS Actions board of directors--the advocacy arm for the Association for Public Television Stations-- issued its recommendations in response to reports that the CPB used public funds to hire a lobbyist to track public TV's political leanings and the hiring of a former GOP leader.

One reform--to break down what the board calls barriers of secrecy and cronyism--would enhance the diversity of the board to include representatives from opposition political parties and to reopen CPB board meetings, as current law requires.

In reaction to the recent hiring of a political lobbyist to track the guests and political leanings of shows like "Now," the APTS Actions board called for a reform package that prohibits CPB from using funds to hire outside political lobbyists or consultants as Tomlinson had recently done. "Now" was criticized for being overly harsh towards the Bush administration and terms like "anti-Bush" and "anti-Tom Delay" were used to describe guests on the show.

To foster an environment of balance, the chair and vice-chair of the board should not be from the same political party, the APTS Action group suggests.

"These reforms are designed to ensure that, to the extent possible, Washington politics are removed from the way that CPB is run," said APTS President John Lawson.

Free Press, the Center for Digital Democracy and Common Cause have called recent hires at the CPB "unqualified political cronies," referring to former Republican National Committee leader Patricia Harrison and others. Harrison recently hired three State Department senior officers from the Public Affairs and Public Diplomacy, which the Free Press news release described as a government division whose goal is to, in part, provide a moral basis for U.S. leadership in the world.

"Public diplomacy is simply a euphemism for propaganda," said Timothy Karr, campaign director of Free Press in a news release.

"The packing of CPB with individuals more comfortable with selling the United States overseas than with honest criticism of their government sends a not-so-subtle signal to those working in public broadcasting that truth is out and spin is in," said Common Cause President Chellie Pingree.