Tomlinson Renominated to BBG

President Bush has renominated Kenneth Tomlinson as both member and chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors.

The administration is likely hoping to get a vote in the Senate Commerce Committee in the lame duck session, before the Democrats take over in January, though the committee schedule is still in flux. The Committee will exit at the end of the week for a Thanksgiving break that extends until Dec. 4.

Former CPB Board Chairman Tomlinson in September survived an attempt by Democratic BBG board members to either remove him from the post in the wake of criticisms of his tenure in a State Department report, or cut back his authority while the allegations are being investigated.

The BBG oversees the government's international broadcasting operations and Tomlinson has been criticized for hiring a friend as a contractor--Tomlinson identifies him as Les Daniels--using government resources to support his horse racing business, working on CPB matters at BBC, asking for compensation from both BBC and CPB for the same hours worked; and working more hours than he was allowed by law.

Tomlinson, who said the investigation was prompted by partisan divisions in the board, has vigorously defended his tenure:

"I am very proud of what I have accomplished for U.S. international broadcasting--from satellite television to Iran to the role I played in getting funding for satellite television to the Arab world to what we have done to expand broadcasting to the people of Afghanistan," he told B&C when the State Department report was first issued.

"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. I was appointed by Presidents 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 board.

"I am confident that I spent far more time on broadcasting responsibilities at my farm and my private residences than I spent on my horses at the office--an average of one email and two and a half minutes a day, using I.G. [inspector general] figures. In retrospect, I should have been more careful in this regard.

Tomlinson has been under increasing scrutiny following investigations at CPB and most recently by the State Department.

He resigned his CPB board chairmanship last fall under increasing criticism of his attempts to add conservative programming to the service to counter what he said was liberal bias. But he remained atop BBG, though his term expired in 2004.

If he is not renominated, Tomlinson gets to serve until a replacement is named, so he will not have to exit when Congress does at the end of the year.

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.