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Sunday, May 01, 2005

PBS- "Fair and Balanced" 

Since I’ve mentioned television recently, let’s talk public television. A quiet counterrevolution is under way at public broadcasting. Viewers should not be surprised to see less television challenging the powers-that-be on our public airways in the coming months and years. According to Paul Farhi at the Washington Post, big changes are under way, and they’re happening quietly. Most producers and staffers depending on public television for jobs are quietly hoping for the best for themselves and the institutions are hewing to the invisible lines that will prove they are “fair and balanced.”

Ken Tomlinson is chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Directors and also the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Tomlinson, who has behind him a stint running the Voice of America during the Reagan administration and was also editor-in-chief of Reader's Digest, oversees lots of public broadcasting money.

Newly under Tomlinson’s Board is Ken Feree. Ferree, a Republican who had been a top adviser to Michael Powell, the former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, just replaced Kathleen Cox as head of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Cox, a longtime CPB administrator, was ousted by the recently more Republican CPB Board. The Ferree appointment followed the dismissals or departures in recent months of at least three other senior CPB officials, all of whom had Democratic affiliations.

Paul McCleary at CJR Daily reports today on the existence of research showing no public sentiment to curb PBS’s content, but don’t expect that to slow the starboard turn in what’s available on the dial, where CPB money accounts for 10% of PBS’s funding. A new scrutiny of stories ‘biases,’ one for the left, two for the right, is under way. Perhaps seminars at Fox could help?

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