CPB Playing Politics with Public
CauseNET for June 1, 2004
The New Yorker Magazine released an article yesterday entitled,
"Big Bird Flies Right," which exposes several recent incidents that
demonstrate the way ideologues within the Corporation for Public Broadcasting
(CPB) are seeking to shape public TV and public radio.
The CPB provides federal funds to public broadcasting and its primary
mission has always been to serve as a "heat shield," protecting
programming from political interference. But instead of serving as a
"heat shield," CPB now is an agent of partisan wrangling.
- CPB decided to provide funding to two programs -- one hosted by Tucker
Carlson, who speaks for conservatives on CNN's "Crossfire," and
one moderated by Paul Gigot, editorial page editor of the Wall Street
Journal. At the same time, "Now with Bill Moyers," which
receives no CPB funds, will be cut from an hour to 30 minutes.
- The Bush Administration has an apparent litmus test for choosing members
of the CPB. The White House interviewed CPB board candidate Chon Noriega,
a UCLA media professor and co-founder of the National Association of
Latino Independent Producers, and asked him whether the CPB should
intervene in programming "deemed politically biased." When
Professor Noriega said intervention should be used only in extraordinary
circumstances, the appointment process ground to a halt, and the White
House has asked Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) to put forward
- In contrast to Noriega's qualifications, President George W. Bush's most
recent CPB appointees, Gay Hart Gaines and Cheryl Halpern, and their
families, have given more than $800,000 to Republicans since 1995. Both
these appointees have backgrounds that raise questions about their
suitability to serve on the CPB board. During her confirmation hearing
last fall, Halpern indicated that she would welcome giving CPB members the
authority to intervene in program content when they felt a program was
biased. Gaines chaired Newt Gingrich's political committee GOPAC. Gingrich
(R-GA), as House Speaker, proposed cutting all federal assistance to
- Referring to the recent events at CPB, Bill Moyers told
The New Yorker
author Ken Auletta: "This is the first time in my 32 years of public
broadcasting that CPB has ordered up programs for ideological instead of
There is a problem with the CPB. Whether it is a Democratic or Republican
President who appoints them, CPB board members tend to be big political donors
who often come with specific ideological agendas. This seems particularly true
of the current board.
We cannot let partisan warriors drive an ideological stake in the heart of
public broadcasting. At a time when media ownership is increasingly
consolidated into fewer corporate hands, we must ensure that the editorial
independence of public broadcasting is held sacred.
We are calling on our nearly 300,000 members and supporters to call and
the CPB TODAY to send a clear message that we won't tolerate
playing politics with public broadcasting.
Call CPB Chairman Kenneth Tomlinson at 1(800) 272-2190
Send A FAX by
You can have an even greater impact by forwarding this message to
your family and friends!
When The New Yorker article "Big Bird Flies
Right" is available online, you will be able to find it here: