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Cronyism and Secrecy at the CPB | The Nation

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Katrina vanden Heuvel

Katrina vanden Heuvel

Politics, current affairs and riffs and reflections on the news.

Cronyism and Secrecy at the CPB

Scroll down for an update from Jeff Chester, one of America's leading media reform experts, re Kenneth Tomlinson's departure from the CPB board.

Early last month in this space, I wrote about the release of the CPB's Inspector General's report on on former CPB chair (and Bush crony) Kenneth Tomlinson's payments to a conservative consultant to rate the political leanings (and loyalties) of PBS guests.

Well, it seems that the IG is expected to present his findings--which reportedly include ethical and procedural violations as well as misuse of funds--Tuesday afternoon to a closed-door meeting of the CPB board of directors, of which Tomlinson remains a member. But, there are currently no plans to make this report public until November 15--after the CPB board has had the chance to vet and potentially alter the report.

In a letter delivered to CPB Chairwoman Cheryl Halpern and President Patricia de Stacy Harrison, a coalition of groups, including Free Press, the Center for Digital Democracy and Common Cause, called for the Inspector General's report to be made public immediately and criticized the board for further compounding its problems with transparency and accountability by reviewing the report in secret. Click here for more info and click here to read my earlier piece about how the CPB can begin providing the balance that its charter mandates.

Update, November 3

"It was time that Mr. Tomlinson stepped down. He has engaged in unethical, if not illegal, behavior. Tomlinson's departure however is unlikely to stop the behind the scenes programming pressure on PBS and perhaps NPR. Board chair Halpern and vice chair Gaines will continue Tomlinson's legacy to reshape public broadcasting more to the liking of conservatives.

Blame must be also shared by Ms. Halpern, Ms. Gaines and the other board members who condoned or supported Tomlinson's past actions. Did Ms. Halpern, for example, know and approve the Mann contract or the hiring of the Hill lobbyist? If so, they should resign as well. Mr. Tomlinson hand-picked choice for CPB Patricia Harrison will help them carry it out. CPB needs a thorough house cleaning. We await the IG report's release.

Mr. Tomlinson still remains head of the powerful Broadcasting Board of Governors. It is likely he resigned to help remain in that position."--Jeff Chester, Exec. Director, Center for Digital Democracy

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