WASHINGTON - July 27 - Ten public interest groups today released a letter they have delivered to each member of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting's board of directors and to new CPB President Patricia Harrison. The letter was signed by the Center for Creative Voices in Media, the Center for Digital Democracy, Chicago Media Action, Citizens for Independent Public Broadcasting, Common Cause, the Consumer Federation of America, Free Press, Media Access Project, Media Alliance and the National Hispanic Media Coalition.
The letter calls for increased openness and transparency in the way the CPB board operates and conducts its meetings. It specifically asks for the board to vote on resolutions at its next meeting that would:
- prohibit board members from approving any contracts without the full knowledge and consent of the board, and make those contracts public;
- require that any time the CBP studies public broadcasting programming, it must first notify and get the consent of PBS, NPR or the appropriate public broadcasting entity it intends to examine;
- make its quarterly meetings public via real-time online, video, audio and other communications and release online its director's conflict-of-interest statements; and
- permit the public to address the board at its open meetings.
"The uproar over certain policy decisions by CPB Chairman Kenneth Tomlinson makes clear that the public cares deeply about how the CPB views its role," said Common Cause President Chellie Pingree. "Citizens should not be kept in the dark about how the CPB does its work."
"CPB must become accountable to the public, who foot its bills in the hundreds of millions yearly," said Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. "Why does the board fear disclosure and transparency?"
"We need to put the public back into public broadcasting," added Jerold Starr, executive director of Citizens for Independent Public Broadcasting. "We can start with the CPB meetings where judgments about who is to be served and decisions about how to spend taxpayers' money are made."
Signers of the letter want the CPB board to consider and vote on these resolutions at their next board meeting on Sept. 19-20. The groups stressed that opening up its process was the first of many reforms that CPB should address.
"These policies promoting transparency and sound, non-partisan corporate governance should be standard policy for such a body, not a debatable or contentious request," said Jeff Perlstein, executive director of Media Alliance.
"Opening the CPB to full public scrutiny will help cleanse the organization of covert partisanship," said Free Press Campaign Director Timothy Karr. "Quality public programming must be allowed to stand on its own merits. There's no place at the CPB for those who seek to manipulate broadcasting content for political gain."
"These suggested reforms are important first steps toward achieving these important goals," said Jonathan Rintels, executive director of the Center for Creative Voices in Media. "America needs a public broadcasting system that operates in full sunshine, free from outside political and corporate pressure."