Tomlinson to Hill: Bring it On

CPB Board Chairman Kenneth Tomlinson says he has no problem with an Inspector General Investigation into what he categorizes as his efforts to "encourage public broadcasters to take more seriously the need that our current affairs line-up reflect objectivity and balance."

The ranking Democrats on the House Commerce and Appropriations committees--John Dingell of Michigan and David Obey of Wisconsin, respectively--called for the investigation Wednesday, concerned that rather than encouraging fair and balanced programming, Tomlinson was advancing a Republican agenda (or any agenda for that matter, since CPB is not supposed to be political).

"I look forward to working with the inspector general and with the Congress to clear up with finality distortions in press reports and elsewhere about our work to bring more diversity to public broadcasting," Tomlinson said Thursday in a statement, proceeding to criticize noncommercial TV by way of a compliment for Jim Lehrer. "There would be no debate on this issue if more programs on public television reflected the high journalistic standards of the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer."

Dingell and Obey want Kenneth Konz, Inspector General for CPB to investigate whether Kenneth Tomlinson violated the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967,  which "prohibits interference by Federal officials over the content and distribution of public programming," and from applying political litmus tests in hiring decisions.

They also want Konz to investigate a press report in the New York Times that Tomlinson hired a consultant to review the Now with Bill Moyers" program for political content, as well to look into CPB decisions to "remove" Kathleen Cox as CPB president, hire a pair of programming ombudsmen, and hire Mary Catherine Andrews while still director of the White House Office of Global Communications--she moved to CPB--to draft guidelines for a review of the public TV and radio content.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.