Published on Wednesday, June 22, 2005 by Reuters
Public Broadcasting Body Stalls Vote on President
by Brooks Boliek
WASHINGTON - The Corporation for Public Broadcasting board delayed selection of a new president for the public TV and radio funding clearing house Tuesday as criticism of the board chairman and cries to roll back funding cuts hit a new high note.
On Tuesday, 16 Democratic Senators asked President Bush to remove board chairman Ken Tomlinson, arguing that he has shown a pattern of partisanship that has no place in the CPB.
Led by Sens. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the Senators said Tomlinson's removal was needed because he's shown "a pattern of political activities."
Tomlinson is under investigation by the CPB inspector general for paying outside groups, some with GOP ties, to decide if programing such as "Now With Bill Moyers" has a liberal or anti-White House slant. Reportedly many of these contracts were approved without board consent.
"Allegations (have surfaced) about diverting taxpayer monies to Republican lobbyists and consultants to monitor content under the guise of trying to make the programing more 'balanced,"' Feinstein said. "We all know that what is needed to create balance is subjective. There are allegations from all sides of the political spectrum that the media is too liberal or too conservative."
In addition, Feinstein expressed concern that Tomlinson has failed to fight vigorously against $200 million in cuts to CPB's budget voted by the House Appropriations Committee.
"Mr. Tomlinson did not rise to publicly fight the cut," she said. "This is astounding. I don't know any CEO or chairman of the board who wouldn't stand up and fight for its dollars needed to support its budget."
During the CPB's board meeting, Tomlinson decried partisanship, saying that for CPB to function "there must be a strong sprit of bipartisanship."
"When people with partisan traditions walk into CPB they leave partisanship at the door," he said. "We want these people on our side -- right, left and middle -- if we want to continue our broad-based support. We at public broadcasting must do everything to demonstrate that we take our objectives seriously."
During the meeting, Tomlinson urged the board to dedicate all its energies to a united effort to overturn the cuts. "We must be focused on restoring the funds," he said.
While a majority of the board naturally support that goal and refused to publicly attack Tomlinson or his primary choice to head CPB (Patricia de Stacy Harrison, a former co-chairman of the Republican National Committee and a high-ranking State Department official), Ernest Wilson challenged him to keep his own pledge.
"Stay away from partisanship for the chief executive officer," he said. "We do not need to select someone who is a high-level political appointee for either of the parties."
It was unclear when the board would make a selection. Another board meeting was scheduled for Wednesday, and a selection could be made then. Board members weren't talking about it, however, having taken a vow of silence. While Harrison still appeared to be the front-runner, Ken Ferree, a former top FCC official and the acting CPB head, is still in the running.
Board member Elizabeth Courtney said she wanted the process opened up but had been given no agenda for today's meeting or a timetable for the selection.
"They certainly aren't telling me," she said.
© 2005 Reuters Ltd