Thursday, November 17, 2005

Bush's PBS Pick Broke the Law...

... go figure

Kenneth Tomlinson, the former Chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting was out from the beginning on a war path to root out anything not in line with the GOP talking points on NPR and PBS. Tomlinson was convinced that PBS and NPR had the most liberally biased new on the airwaves. Even after his own internal research survey found that Americans trusted news on PBS more than any other news source in America, and found it to be the most balanced, he still stuck to his partisan push to turn PBS into a publicly funded Fox News.

Yesterday, a report by the inspector general, Kenneth Konz, found that Tomlinson had broken the law in several aspects while he was the Chairman.

Rove Discussed Programming With Public TV Chief, Konz Says

Presidential adviser Karl Rove and Kenneth Tomlinson, then chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, discussed creating a ``conservative'' talk show and adding it to the public television lineup, the organization's top investigator said.

Kenneth Konz, inspector general of the nonprofit company that oversees government funding of public TV, said in an interview yesterday that Tomlinson and Rove exchanged e-mails on programming and that Tomlinson also wrote to Rove about ``shaking up'' the agency and recruiting Republican staff.

In a report two days ago, Konz said Tomlinson broke federal laws and internal rules by hiring corporation President Patricia Harrison, a former Republican National Committee co-chairwoman, based on her Republican ties. The report discussed the e-mails but didn't identify Rove as one of the people involved.

``I didn't see anything coming out of the White House showing that they instructed him or ordered him what to do,'' Konz said in the interview.

Tomlinson also improperly helped develop ``The Journal Editorial Report,'' a conservative talk show, for public TV, the six-month probe found.

The issue was ``the use of political tests that were seeking people from one party or from a conservative viewpoint,'' Konz said yesterday.

Konz said he tried to interview Rove and two other White House officials who engaged in e-mail exchanges with Tomlinson about Harrison's hiring and other matters.

The fact that Tomlinson was consulting with Rove is absolutely outrageous. PBS is meant to be free from political influence and pressure. You cannot have the Chairman consulting the top White House policy advisor and claim any kind of impartiality.

The Wall Street Journal has a curious defense of the accusations in their editorial, discussing the creation of the Wall Street Editorial Report.

The real story is that Mr. Tomlinson was a rare political appointee who took seriously CPB's mandate to pursue balanced programming.

Now, don't get me wrong. I watch the Editorial Report quite regularly. I is not a bad show, and quite often has interesting and intelligent discussions. But it is by far the least balanced show on PBS. If you ever wanted to hear what an echo Chamber sounds like, watch the Editorial Report. I have never heard one commentator disagree with another one on the show. Most of the time is goes pretty much like, "I think capital gains taxes are bad." Followed by, "Why, I also think capital gains taxes are bad. How 'bout you Bob?" "Concurred whole heartedly, Bud. Bill?" "Ditto on that one, Bob & Bud."

I support keeping the show on the air, but I would also like to see some fleshing out of the topics with some alternative opinions. Having 4 liaise faireist discuss business is not balance. Hell, throw in a pinko-commie-bastard in there every once in a while to liven things up a bit.

BTW, not that Paul Gigot would ever read my blog, but if he should happen upon this someday - "Tony vs. Tacky" is tacky. Moving along...

1 comment:

tommy said...

OK I'll start by saying I think government ownership or intervention in the media is as horrible an idea as there is. So I am inherently opposed to NPR and PBS receiving federal funds on those grounds alone. But...he was the chairman of the CPB, not PBS, and they are not the same organization. The CPB does not make programming decision, simply controls some purse strings, so I guess there is the threat to hold back funds.

If you are referring to the Roper survey, that was commsioned by PBS, not the CPB, and it also concluded that PBS is second only to military defense in value to the tax payer. Higher than social security, the highway system, public health, education. So without having any specifics of the survey other than that, I'm of the opinion that the survey was most likely loaded in PBS favor by the way the questions were formatted. If you are referring to another survey, I don't know of it.

The fact that he talked to Rove, since he doesn't make any programming decisions, is not that important. Unless there is evidence that funds were withheld, or threatened to be withheld, based on something Rove said.

For what it's worth, from where I sit I consider PBS and NPR to be the most liberal of all the media outlets, enough so that I completely stopped listening to them some time ago, and would consider an attempt to move them to the right an attempt to provide balance to them.

But balance is a relative thing based on where you stand, and that is why I don't think the government has any role here, because it can't be played fairly, even if they try.