Tomlinson quits board of public broadcasting

November 04, 2005|By DAVID ZURAWIK | DAVID ZURAWIK,SUN TELEVISION CRITIC

Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting board member who in May charged PBS with liberal bias, abruptly resigned yesterday in the face of an internal investigative report that is expected to charge him with using questionable tactics and trying to undermine the political independence of public television and radio.

Tomlinson, who was chairman of the CPB board when he made the allegations, stepped down from that post last month when his term expired - but only after hand-picking a successor, as well as a new president of CPB who was a former Republican official.

His resignation came after a closed meeting in which board members discussed a six-month investigation by the CPB's inspector general, Kenneth A. Konz.

"The board does not believe that Mr. Tomlinson acted maliciously or with any intent to harm CPB or public broadcasting, and recognizes that Mr. Tomlinson strongly disputes the soon-to-be-released inspector general's report," a statement issued late yesterday by board members said.

"Nonetheless, both the board and Mr. Tomlinson believe it is in the best interests of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting that he no longer remain on the board."

The primary target of Tomlinson's complaint in May was Bill Moyers, who until December had been host of the weekly PBS newsmagazine, NOW with Bill Moyers. Tomlinson alleged that the program was riddled with "left-wing bias" and constant criticism of President Bush.

Tomlinson said he based his charges on the findings of a content study of NOW that he had commissioned with CPB funds in 2004. He said he hired a consultant to monitor the show for "political content" - particularly "anti-Bush," "anti-business" and "anti-Tom DeLay" bias.

In what he characterized as an attempt to balance that liberal tilt, Tomlinson helped secure $5 million in underwriting to place a conservative public affairs show, The Journal Editorial Report, on PBS. He also reportedly urged PBS stations to carry the show.

The CPB is prohibited from producing, distributing or scheduling shows. It was set up by Congress to be a firewall between public broadcasting and the federal government, to protect public broadcasting from political interference as PBS and National Public Radio received federal funds.

The inspector general's report is expected to say Tomlinson violated the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967, which established the relationship between CPB and PBS, in trying to subvert the independence of public radio and TV. Specific offenses will include authorizing funds for the Moyers' content study without board approval and seeking to promote The Journal Editorial Report.

david.zurawik@baltsun.com

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