June 6, 2005


Clearing the Airwaves: Kenneth Tomlinson's attempt to save public broadcasting. (Andrew Ferguson, 06/13/2005, Weekly Standard)

EXTRAVAGANCE OF LANGUAGE, SWELLING sometimes to full-throated verbal hysteria, is a defining quality of today's politics. Even so, we confess to being surprised at the cascades of abuse that have recently fallen about the ears of Kenneth Tomlinson, the chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Tomlinson is a bit taken aback too, apparently--though so far he shows no signs of withering under the assault. Good for him.

President Clinton appointed Tomlinson to the CPB board in 2000, and President Bush lifted him to the chairmanship three years later. During his time on the board, which oversees and underwrites public television and radio, he's taken an interest in the issue of "objectivity and balance." He's supposed to--it's right there in Section 19 of the Public Telecommunications Act: "The Board of Directors of the Corporation shall . . . review, on a regular basis, national public broadcasting programming for quality, diversity, creativity, excellence, innovation, objectivity, and balance." This provision of the act, which was passed in 1992 by a Democratic Senate and a Democratic House of Representatives, is an elementary exercise in bureaucratic hygiene. Any government agency that touches on controversial subjects, as public broadcasting inevitably will, should cast a wide net, ideologically, if it is to count on the continued good will of the taxpayers and the lawmakers who allocate their money to pay for it.

So far, so normal, you might think. "How," Tomlinson asks, "could any segment of the American people be opposed to commonsense balance?"

Oh, but people do object, lots
of them, and in the overwrought terms typical of today's polemicists. A writer for the liberal magazine American Prospect called Tomlinson a "commissar of political correctness" bent on "Soviet-style partisan patronage, cronyism, and abuse." "The conservative attack on independent journalism has begun to spread," said a columnist for the Cox newspaper chain. Writing in the Boston Globe, a host of an NPR talk show also saw shadows of "Soviet-era Moscow" in Tomlinson's quest for balanced programming. The St. Petersburg Times editorialized against an "ideology-driven attempt to demonize and regulate one of the nation's most trusted news sources." The editorialists at the New York Times accused Tomlinson, who oversees a government program funded through the political process by 535 politicians, of "politicizing" his agency. Besides, the Times said, "there was a time when a passionate conservative might have looked at PBS programming and called it too liberal. But those days seem long past." Noted.

So if this is the Soviet Union and Gitmo is the gulag, can't we at least start shipping these folks there?

NHPR did an hour on this last week and host Laura Kinoy ended up having to defend her conservative callers points against her own boss, Public Broadcasting in the Spotlight (Laura Knoy, 2005-06-02, The Exchange)

Recently, the chair of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting put PBS and NPR in the spotlight by raising concerns over levels of objectivity and balance. We will talk with critics from both the left and the right about their reaction to the allegations, and ask them where they see instances of bias at NPR and PBS. Laura is joined by Mark Handley, president of New Hampshire Public Radio, Fergus Cullen, columnist for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News and Peter Hart, Activism Director at Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR).

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 6, 2005 7:14 AM

Terminate PBS & National Palestinian Radio now, with extreme prejudice.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at June 6, 2005 12:14 PM


Yes, and use the real Terminator. :-)

Posted by: at June 6, 2005 12:25 PM

NPR does provide a fascinating look at the liberal worldview. This morning they felt it was newsworthy to note that the wife of an Enron official was released from prison. Why exactly this little tidbit is relevant to anyone was not explained...

Posted by: b at June 6, 2005 12:56 PM

I was astonished to hear Karl Kassel announce this morning that American "fighters" were in action in Iraq ( I don't remember the exact quote).

Strange wording.

Posted by: jim hamlen at June 6, 2005 2:40 PM

All you ever needed to know about NPR, in one concise little essay by the late Michael Kelly:

"Good evening, and welcome to 'All Is Lost,' the nightly public affairs program produced by National Public Radio and the British Broadcasting Corp. Tonight we discuss what has been called America's war against terror. I am your host, Perfectly Modulated Voice of Reason. . . ."

Posted by: Mike Morley at June 6, 2005 5:36 PM

"So if this is the Soviet Union and Gitmo is the gulag, can't we at least start shipping these folks there?" What a great theme for the PBS fund-drives!

Posted by: Luciferous at June 6, 2005 5:43 PM