Remember Kenneth Tomlinson? The guy who launched a $10,000 study to look into the purported liberal bias of Now with Bill Moyers. Well, it seems that Tomlinson himself broke federal law by bringing in more conservative voices to tilt PBS’s programming to the right, violating the ethical standards set forth by the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967. Apparently, Tomlinson couldn’t practice what he preached.
Interestingly enough, Tomlinson resigned as a board member earlier in the month shortly after all this chicanery was unearthed by Corporation for Public Broadcasting Inspector General Kenneth Konz. While there are no criminal penalties for Tomlinson’s unethical conduct, if there is any justice in the world, I sincerely hope that Tomlinson will be found working at an Arby’s somewhere.
HA! These guys have mastered the art of falling upward, so no fast food service for him, I fear.
Here’s what important. It’s from the Newhour, a show that does take what Tomlison sought seriously.
JEFFREY BROWN: In fact, the inspector general didn’t dispute that Mr. Tomlinson and the board of CPB has a right to look into this question of objectivity and balance. PAUL FARHI: That’s right, except that there was no real definition of “objectivity and balance.” It was sort of left to some subjective determination as to how one would find balance or objectivity on that programming — eye of the beholder. And in fact one of the reforms suggested by the inspector general was to better define how you would go about measuring this subjective question of objectivity. JEFFREY BROWN: And they do, the report does refer to this CPB complex role — it says, “complex and sometimes contradictory role,” that sort of underlies this whole thing, which is to act as a so-called heat shield to protect against government influence, but at the same time, it is allowed to look at objectivity. PAUL FARHI: That’s exactly right. For 40 years, since the creation of CPB, they’ve had this dual role which does seem to be a bit contradictory. On the one hand, we want you to prevent political pressure. On the other hand, we want you to ensure balance. Well, sometimes protecting balance and objectivity looks like political pressure as a lot of people within the Public Broadcasting System and the public broadcasting community complained when Tomlinson came in looking in looking for this balance.
Read the CPB charter and the inspector general’s report. They’re both on the web.
Jeff: It’s actually much simpler than that, given that the CPB Charter essentially reflects the Fairness Doctrine (which was repealed under Reagan) permitting equal time for all political parties. Tomlinson was clearly caught stacking the deck in the right’s direction, and I would have been equally appalled had he done the same thing towards the left. The whole point of the CPB Charter (and the sadly overturned Fairness Doctrine) is to ensure an objective media landscape, so that the Americans can make an informed political decision. Unfortunately, it’s usually about who has the most cash.
On NOW, any appearance by “moderately offensive” liberals such as James Carville were to be balanced with two appearances by “polite conservatives” like Tucker Carlson. Howard Dean warranted three Tom Delay appearances and John Kerry was equal in weight to two Dick Cheneys, an Ann Coulter, and former Christian Coalition president Ralph Reed. “Its a simple matter of balance and fairness.”