CPB mulls ‘point-of-view’ option

The Corp. for Public Broadcasting is considering funding programs that will counterbalance more provocative “point-of-view” shows that air on the Public Broadcasting System and National Public Radio.

CPB prez Richard Carlson and board chairman Sheila Tate held a press conference yesterday to unveil an “open to the public” campaign that aims to make pubcasting more responsive to the wishes of viewers.

The campaign will feature a telephone number to field listener comments and complaints (800-356-2626); a special mailing address for public comment (CPB, P.O. Box 50880, Washington, D.C., 20091-0880); quarterly “town meetings” to be held outside D.C. by the CPB board; and the appointment of panels of experts to “analyze national programming for quality, diversity and creativity.”

Part of the new openness campaign may include programs that are funded specifically in response to a controversial show or documentary, per Carlson.

“That would be the last line of action,” he said. Other options would be considered before a specific program would be ordered to counterbalance another program, per Carlson. Those options would include holding a talkshow on a particular controversial issue, a letters-to-the-editor format, or a panel discussion with a “wide variety of experts” airing immediately following a controversial program.

The new openness proposal, expected to be approved by the CPB board Jan. 26, comes in response to legislation passed this year by Congress requiring “objectivity and balance” in public broadcasting programs.

Both PBS and NPR have long been accused of having a “pro-leftist bias” by conservatives. Senate minority leader Robert Dole (R-Kan.) cited the alleged bias as grounds for nixing CPB’s funding increase request during the Senate debate this year.

Public broadcasting has also come under fire for airing programs such as “Tongues Untied,” a show about black homosexuals that was criticized by the Rev. Donald Wildmon’s American Family Assn.

Carlson said the series “P.O.V.,” which has tackled a number of controversial issues, would not be “at risk” under the new “objectivity and balance” proposals.

Tate said the message being sent to the production community by the proposals is that “fairness is our first standard.”

The CPB proposals drew immediate praise from David Horowitz, a conservative critic of pubcasting programming who chairs the Committee on Media Integrity. “We welcome this change and are encouraged that … a new era of dialogue and broadened support for public broadcasting will begin.”

Horowitz said he hopes PBS and NPR will endorse the new CPB policy proposals.

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