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Former CPB, BBG Chair Ken Tomlinson Dies

Kenneth Tomlinson, former chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, died May 1, according to BBG. He was 69.

BBG is the independent federal agency overseeing all government-supported U.S. civilian international media including VOA, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the Middle East Broadcasting Networks--Alhurra TV and Radio Sawa--Radio Free Asia, and the Office of Cuba Broadcasting Radio and TV Martí.

Tomlinson was tapped by President George W. Bush to chair BBG in 2002 and remained through 2007. He had been a VOA director from 1982 to 1984 and a board member of the Board for International Broadcasting, the predecessor of BBG, from 1987 through 1994. Under his watch, BBG launched Arabic-language channel Alhurra TV and expanded programming for Afghanistan and Iran.

He was CPB chair from 2002 to 2005.

Tomlinson's tenures atop CPB and BBG were marked by controversy and investigations that he called partisan attacks. Democrats unsuccessfully tried to oust him from the BBG board. He was accused of hiring a friend as a contractor, using government resources to support his horse racing business, working on CPB matters at BBG, asking for compensation from both BBG and CPB for the same hours, and working more hours than allowed by law.

"It was well known and accepted by all that, because of the importance of what I was doing in the war on terror, that I would be working more than 130 days a year," Tomlinson told B&C at the time. "I was appointed to serve on two boards and I believe I was the first person in history to be chairman of two boards at the same time. I made diligent efforts to bill each board only for the work I did for each."

Tomlinson resigned his CPB board chairmanship in 2005. During his contentious two-year term, he drew fire from the Hill, and eventually from a CPB Inspector General's report sought by congressional Democrats, for allegedly using political litmus tests for new hires and for his efforts to add more conservative programming to noncommercial TV and radio to balance what he said was a liberal bias there. Tomlinson countered that the IG investigation was not objective.

He remained atop BBG, though his term expired in 2004. He was renominated by the President in 2005, but the committee held up considering the nomination while the various investigations were being undertaken. He eventually left BBG in 2007, asking the President not to renominate him.

"Ken Tomlinson brought a tremendous amount of journalistic experience to his work here, and that showed in his achievements," said BBG Chairman Jeff Shell in a statement. "He was well regarded by many for having a keen sense of the news. He launched important projects in response to the information needs of audiences abroad."

Tomlinson, a veteran print journalist, began his career as a reporter for The Richmond Times-Dispatch in 1965, moving to Reader's Digest and eventually becoming editor-in-chief, retiring from the magazine in 1996.

He is survived by his wife, Rebecca Moore Tomlinson, and two sons.