Sunday, May 08, 2005

PBS pressured to move right

Recent pressures to push PBS content more to the right seem to fly in the face of "balance" and the White House's involvement in setting up a new office of the ombudsman threatens PBS's objectivity. In their efforts to better support a conservative agenda, The Corporation for Public Broadcast (CPB) fails to recognize that establishing balance is not achieved by creating counter-biases. It's an objective to represent both sides of an issue fairly and accurately.

Check out these links for more details on this story: New York Times*, Washington Post, current.org

CPB, which provides about 10 percent of PBS's annual budget, is taking steps to create balanced reporting on PBS stations by increasing conservative representation through a transformation of existing programming and restructuring of the corporation's executive members. CPB Chairman Kenneth Y. Tomlinson is working to beef up Republican representation among CPB brass, recommending the appointment of Patricia Harrison, a former co-chairwoman of the Republican National Committee who is now an assistant secretary of state, as successor for president Kathleen A. Cox, whose contract was not renewed. According to corporate officials, Tomlinson also hired the director of the White House Office of Global Communications as a senior staff member in late March, on the recommendation of administration officials, as reported in the New York Times.

Former CPB president Robert Coonrod, who stepped down in July 2004, said in the New York Times piece that Tomlinson is "trying to help the people in public broadcasting understand why some people in the conservative movement think PBS is hostile to them and... imbue public broadcasting with the notion of balance because he thinks that long term it's a winner in getting Congressional support." Yeah, "Congress," but we know who he means. Maybe it's just me, but it seems some of the perceived hostility toward these dissenting Congressfolk may stem from things like Newt Gingrich's plan 10 years ago to zero out the nearly 30 million dollars PBS receives in funding from what the Washington Post calls a "Republican-dominated" CPB, and sentiments like these examples found in The Arizona Conservative, freerepublic.com and the efforts of guys like David Horowitz that suggest the elimination of PBS altogether.

The corporation insisted for the first time this year, that its contributions will be linked to what it calls "objectivity and balance," though to achieve this it has added "The Journal Editorial Report," which features the members of the conservative editorial board of The Wall Street Journal.

The Post's article points out that "The corporation's own research indicates broad public satisfaction with the quality of news programming on PBS and NPR." Maybe it's not the public we are trying to satisfy.

*-If you read the Times piece, check out this timeswatch.com link as well, which makes some interesting points in how the terms "liberal" and "conservative" are applied in the paper, as the terms apply to this story. While not specific to this article, it seems more telling that the criticism holds up: that "conservative" is being used to describe what are maintained as right-leaning interests, while none of the left-leaning parties or programs referenced are labeled as "liberal."

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