Activists Protest 'Drive by' CPB Hiring

Petitions delivered to CPB to delay vote on new president; Senator calls for Tomlinson resignation.

A petition signed by 150,000 citizens calling for an end to political meddling in public broadcasting was delivered by media activists from Common Cause, Free Press and the Center for Digital Democracy Monday to the board of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting in Washington.

The groups alsoare calling on CPB to delay a vote the activists say would rubber stamp CPB Chairman Kenneth Tomlinson’s pick of Patricia Harrison to be CPB president. The vote was scheduled for Tuesday.

Common Cause President Chellie Pingree said Harrison’s selection would be a “drive-by hiring” conducted without a legitimate search for qualified candidates.

Harrison, she said, is an inappropriate choice for the job because she is a former chairman of the Republican National Committee and has no experience in public broadcasting. A number of Tomlinson moves have been characterized by his critics as a heavy-handed attempt to put conservatives in key position in public broadcasting to either shift news programming to the right or to eliminate news on public stations  altogether.

At almost the same time, Democratic Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) sent a letter to Tonlinson calling on him to resign, saying: “As a result of your recent attempts to inject partisan politics into the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), I am writing to urge you to step down as chairman. 

"Your conduct has undermined the CPB and its mission of quality public broadcasting free of political interference.  Under current circumstances, with investigations of your conduct pending, it is hardly possible for you to effectively carry out your duties as chairman of the CPB,” he said.