CPB chairman defends efforts

July 12, 2005|By Nick Madigan | Nick Madigan,SUN STAFF

Under intense questioning in a Senate hearing, the beleaguered chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting defended yesterday what some Senators view as his effort to tilt PBS programming toward the right.

Kenneth Y. Tomlinson told the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services he was just seeking a political balance when he complained in 2003 that Now With Bill Moyers (which continues without him as Now in a half-hour format) lacked balance.

"Public broadcasting would do well to reflect conservative points of view as it did so eloquently liberal points of view," said Tomlinson, who described Moyers' show as "political advocacy broadcasting."

Tomlinson is being investigated by the CPB's inspector-general for possibly politicizing the operations of the agency.

The questions over balance and objectivity - and the assertions by some Republican senators that the Public Broadcasting Service, in general, is a leftist organization - were part of the larger debate over government funding for the CPB, which provides federal money to public broadcasters. PBS receives $48.5 million, or about 15 percent of its annual operating budget, from the corporation.

Last month in the House of Representatives, an intense lobbying effort by the CPB and its supporters, staved off an attempt by the White House and Republican members to gut the CPB's budget. But the bill sent by the House to the Senate lacked more than $103 million in funding for digital interconnection between stations and for PBS's Ready-to-Learn and Ready-to-Teach programs.

Today, the Senate subcommittee will take up the agency's $430 million request for 2008.

But amid the talk of money, politics persisted.

Sen. Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, one of 16 senators who have written to President Bush recommending that Tomlinson be fired, said he was concerned that Tomlinson was "politicizing public broadcasting" by appearing to be an advocate for right-wing views and "carrying water for the administration" by silencing its critics.

"It's going to tear at the heart of public broadcasting," Durbin said at the hearing, which was broadcast live on C-Span.

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