Diane Watson

Public Broadcasting - June 23, 2005

Diane Watson
June 23, 2005— Washington, DC
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Our public broadcasting system is being attacked once again by reactionary forces inside the beltway. This time, PBS and NPR are suffering a two-pronged assault: one on content and the other on funding. Both assaults are politically motivated.

Today, Congressman Hinchey and I will offer an amendment to prohibit any further injection of politics into this taxpayer-funded agency. The Public Broadcasting Act of 1967 that authorized the CPB clearly forbids “any direction, supervision, or control over the content or distribution of public telecommunications programs and services.” In addition, the Act prohibits any “political test or qualification” to be used in selecting or appointing any officers or employees of the Corporation. The Watson-Hinchey Amendment simply reinforces these provisions of the law to ensure that Kenneth Tomlinson will no longer undermine the independence of our nation’s public broadcasting systems.

As you know, Mr. Tomlinson has made known his personal crusade to discredit and destroy PBS. He worked behind the scene to stack the CPB's board and executive offices with operatives who share his ideological views.

According to recent reports, Tomlinson is promoting Patricia Harrison, the former co-chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, to be CPB's next president. Last Friday, I wrote a letter, joined by 20 of my colleagues, urging a delay in the vote.

The reason I wrote the letter was because CPB’s so-called search process for a new president has turned into little more than a smokescreen for Chairman Tomlinson to anoint his own partisan political choice to head the agency. The sham search process has been developed and administered with no transparency and no input from the public broadcasting community. There also has been no attempt at addressing the make up of the applicant pool in terms of diversity and expertise.

The likely selection of a political activist to the position also blatantly contradicts the concept of CPB as a non-political entity. The taxpayer-funded CPB is supposed to serve as a firewall between Washington D.C. politics and public broadcasting.

As acting CEO for the CPB, Kenneth Tomlinson should be protecting PBS from these onslaughts. Instead, he has politicized PBS with the following actions: · Suppressed a public poll showing that 80 percent of Americans judge PBS to be "fair and balanced" compared to network and cable television. · Hired a partisan researcher for a stealth study to track "anti-Bush" and "anti-Tom DeLay" comments by the guests of NOW with Bill Moyers.

I am dismayed by the incompetence of Mr. Tomlinson. Given his brazen partisan agenda, my faith in his leadership of CPB is irreparably shaken. I have no other choice but to call for his resignation at this time.

According to the nonpartisan Roper polling firm, Americans consider the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) to be the nation’s “most trusted” among nationally-known organizations. We must save PBS by providing it with sufficient funds for its quality programming and entrusting it in the hands of safe leadership. Republicans in Congress must immediately restore PBS funding, and I call on them to support our amendment.