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Groups Push CPB For More Changes

The Corporation For Public Broadcasting board is meeting this week, in part to consider proposed changes in the wake of an Inspector General's report finding problems with its governance.

Common Cause and Center for Digital Democracy give CPB credit for some "important steps to ending political tests in hiring and offering protection to whistle-blowers," but say that in other areas, CPB "appears unwilling to make changes that would ensure more transparency and accountability."

The groups say that on April 7, a board subcommittee rejected financial disclosure requirements. “It appears that the current CPB board leadership isn't interested in serious governance rules," the group said in a statement Monday. The full board was scheduled to consider those requirements Monday.

The board is scheduled to vote on a boatload of measures to update and strengthen governance and external controls at the nonprofit corporation, which oversees the distribution of government funds to noncommercial TV and radio.

In response to the inspector general report last fall that found problems with CPB governance, including how contracts were overseen and hirings made, the corporation undertook a top-to-bottom review of policies and procedures, many of which it will vote on at the May 1-2 meeting.

The IG investigation that resulted in the report had been prompted by criticisms of the actions of then-Board Chairman Ken Tomlinson, including the choice of new CPB President Patricia Harrison, a former top Republican party official, and Tomlinson's efforts to track and balance what he perceived as liberal PBS and NPR programming. Tomlinson resigned, but maintained the report was off-base.

Following an April 26 meeting of one of three committees created by the board in November to oversee the expansive review, the full board will meet to vote on a set of new or amended policies relating to: its code of ethics; conflicts of interest; open meeting procedures--i.e. when the board can or can't hold open meetings; procedures preventing political tests in employment actions; whistle-blower nonretaliation policies; and the handling of investigation-related records.

What they will be voting on is the product of a collaborative process between the board and management over the past several months, suggests VP, Communications, Michael Levy, who says the result of that review will "exceed" the IG recommendations.

There remain some outstanding issues related to contracting and other matters that the board has yet to vote on, says Levy.