the blog of DC Drinking Liberally

June 22, 2005

(Re)Publican Broadcasting Service


Growing up in Rockville, MD, I wasn’t exactly starved for cultural influences, but it’s fair to say I had to work a little harder. Thank goodness that WETA existed.

This of course was in the days before the Moonie Times could advertise on WETA, when Robin McNeill ruled the News Hour, before Fox News invented Fair and Balanced Propaganda, and certainly before Republican control of CPB.

The problem with Public Broadcasting is not an excessively liberal influence. The problem is that Corporation for Public Broadcasting chairman, Ken Tomlinson, and chief executive Ken Ferree are total partisan hacks.

Fortunately, Media Matters, led by former right-wing pitbull David Brock has been on the case. Media Matters has developed the campaign Hands Off Public Broadcasting to stop hacks like Tomlinson and Ferree from destroying PBS all together, or at a minimum neutralize its ability to criticize the Bush administration.

Just how hacky is Tomlinson? According to the NYT he’s hacky enough to be working directly with the White House, and to lie about it in an interview:

WASHINGTON, June 17 - E-mail messages obtained by investigators at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting show that its chairman, Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, extensively consulted a White House official shortly before she joined the corporation about creating an ombudsman’s office to monitor the balance and objectivity of public television and radio programs.

Mr. Tomlinson said in an interview three months ago that he did not think he had instructed a subordinate to send material on the ombudsman project to Mary C. Andrews at her White House office in her final days as director of global communications, a political appointment.

Surprisingly, Ken Ferree, the chief executive of CPB also sounds pretty hacky: (interview with NYT Magazine)

But who can deny that politics has crept into the process? Your predecessor, Kathleen Cox, was axed just two weeks ago, supposedly because she had incurred the wrath of conservative groups. Recently, they were outraged by an episode of ‘’Postcards From Buster,'’ which was never shown, in which the animated bunny visits a friend who lives with a lesbian couple.

All I know is that on Friday afternoon the board chairman came in and asked if I would serve as interim president. I had no idea until the 11th hour that this was happening. I don’t know what led to what.

Do you worry that these sorts of incidents will alienate the old left-leaning PBS loyalists?

Well, maybe we can attract some new viewers.

You mean viewers who are more conservative?

Yeah! I would hope that in the long run we can attract new viewers, and we shouldn’t limit ourselves to a particular demographic. Does public television belong to the Democrats?

What’s the problem with PBS? From that last exchange I gather that it needs different viewers. The problem is that the current viewers just aren’t conservative enough. Does Ferree have an advanced degree in circular logic? I would guess yes.

Surprisingly, Mr. Ferree is not a 100% fan of current PBS programming: (from the same interview)

What PBS shows do you like?

I’m not much of a TV consumer. I like ‘’Masterpiece Theater'’ and some of the ‘’Frontline'’ shows. I like ‘’Antiques Roadshow'’ and ‘’Nova.'’ I don’t know. What’s your favorite show?

It would probably be the ‘’NewsHour With Jim Lehrer.'’

Yes, Lehrer is good, but I don’t watch a lot of broadcast news. The problem for me is that I do the Internet news stuff all day long, so by the time I get to the Lehrer thing . . . it’s slow. I don’t always want to sit down and read Shakespeare, and Lehrer is akin to Shakespeare. Sometimes I really just want a People magazine, and often that is in the evening, after a hard day.

For the head of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, you don’t sound like much of a PBS viewer. Perhaps you prefer NPR, which your organization also finances?

No. I do not get a lot of public radio for one simple reason. I commute to work on my motorcycle, and there is no radio access.

Can’t you install a radio on a motorcycle and listen with headphones?

One probably can. But my bikes are real cruisers. They’re stripped down deliberately to look cool, and I don’t want all that electronic gear.

He doesn’t listen to NPR, which CPB funds, because he’s more concerned with looking cool on his bike? What a hack.

Further reading: Must-Flee TV How the GOP is taking over at PBS by Joe Conason.

Update: more at the Huffington Post.


  1. What I don’t understand is why the Republicans are simultaneously trying to turn public broadcasting into something more resembling Fox News (or other propaganda outlets) and trying to slash its funding. Shouldn’t it be one or the other?

    Keith12:58 pm

  2. I’m reasonably sure they want to kill PBS off. Part of doing that needs to include alienating the current audience. Making it Fox-lite is just a means to the end.

    You’ve got to remember the real crazies are in charge right now. In their view the government should just be there for national defense.

    Government-funded TV and radio is like socialism, which is like communism, which is like a whole bunch of isms.

    —AltHippo • 2:11 pm

  3. I guess that makes sense.

    The president of NPR is on the Diane Rehm Show today. Unfortunately they don’t do transcripts, but they do have RealAudio archives.

    Keith10:17 am, June 23

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