September 14, 2005

More than 100,000 citizens have petitioned the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) to stop threatening public broadcasting's editorial integrity, and Common Cause and nine other reform groups wrote to the CPB board, asking it to embrace more transparency in its decision-making process.  Nevertheless, Patricia de Stacy Harrison, the new president and chief executive officer of the CPB, denies there are any problems to talk about.  

We disagree. 

Over the last several months the CPB board and its chairman, Kenneth Tomlinson, a Republican with ties to many prominent Republican political figures including Karl Rove, have been criticized for spending public money to hire consultants to monitor bias in programming like NOW and the Diane Rehm show.  He did this without the notification of the full board, without public disclosure and without notifying the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) or National Public Radio (NPR).  Under chairman Tomlinson's leadership, the CPB also hired two ombudsmen to review programming and gather public sentiment about program content, in an apparent attempt to position the board to influence editorial decisions, an unprecedented event in the organization's 40-plus-year history.  In fact, the CPB inspector general is currently investigating the propriety of the board's recent activities.  Members of Congress also are scrutinizing the CPB's actions. 

In our letter last month, Common Cause and our coalition partners called on the CPB board members and Harrison to adopt a resolution that would make the CPB more transparent and accountable to the American public.  In her response to our request, Harrison's asserts that the CPB has sufficient rules in place to ensure transparency and accountability. 

We reject Ms. Harrison's arguments.  The CPB rules she is referring to are the same rules that allowed for the breaches of trust that have repeatedly occurred under the current leadership at CPB.  And we found no language in the Public Broadcasting Act , the CPB bylaws, or on the CPB website that address our concerns.   Please join us in calling on Harrison to support our resolution to open up the CPB process.  You can reach her office at (202) 879-9662.

Thanks from the Common Cause Campaign Team to Protect Public Broadcasting.


Celia Wexler, Lauren Coletta, Dawn Holian

P.S. Common Cause and its partners have purchased an ad, calling on the CPB leadership to be more transparent in the way it makes decisions, in the most read public broadcasting publication  "Current."  This is a priority campaign for Common Cause and we could use your financial support .