Putting The Corporation In Public Broadcasting, Politics Signal More Underwriting, Fewer Stations

by , , Jun 21, 2005, 7:30 AM
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The political tussle surrounding the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the governing body in charge of funding public radio and television, could lead to less federal support and a greater role for corporate underwriting of public television. Either that--or it could spell the demise of some public stations, say consumer watchdog groups protesting what they are calling the partisan political meddling and potentially crippling de-funding initiatives currently before the U.S. Congress.

A coalition including "Common Cause," "Free Press," and the "Center for Digital Democracy" charged that partisan political pressure is hurting the independence of the CPB board at a time when the reliance of public TV and radio stations on funding by the CPB already is dwindling.

Timothy Karr, campaign director for Free Press, a nonprofit group dedicated to greater public involvement in media policy, said that while most stations receive only about 15 percent of their funding from the government, such a cut could spell the end of some stations.

Given this possibility, stations would have to find alternative ways of funding, such as more corporate underwriting, and increase donor drives.

In addition to the extra efforts stations would exert in an attempt to get more private funding, the added political controversy could also hamper their efforts to stay alive. "Some corporate underwriters will be scared of political controversy," added Karr, adding to the difficulty of raising funds for their programming.

Chellie Pingree, president of Common Cause, said in a joint press conference call yesterday that what they are most concerned about is the potential hiring of a new president for the CPB.

Pingree described the search for a candidate as a "drive-by hiring," which does not allow sufficient time or resources to locate a proper candidate.

"We are concerned on the potential hiring of a new president," she said. "[There is a] lack of transparency and accountability, sufficient time to allow for a valid search for a potential appointment for a president who appears to be very partisan, particularly in this political climate," added Pingree.

In addition to his alleged political partisanship, Karr took issue with Tomlinson's claim of biased reporting found in public broadcasting today, saying: "Tomlinson has been an active propagandist for most of his career, as the head of Voice of America and several other governmental media outlets."

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