PBS unbalanced

Variety editorial

A correction was made to this article on May 4, 2005

Under the Bush administration, Part II, every facet of life in Washington seems to be subject to an ideological litmus test. The latest example is the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

In the past, some have found PBS dull, others bureaucratic, a few even think it too British, but Kenneth Tomlinson, the Republican chairman of CPB, has now found it to be too liberal. A veteran of Readers Digest, Tomlinson is apparently bent on changing that drift.

Tomlinson & company have stacked an advisory committee on programming with conservative political types, appointed consultants to categorize the views of guests on particular news affairs programs, and are hiring two ombudsmen, Ken Bode and William Schulz, who were appointed in April, to monitor the entire system.

Earlier this year PBS CEO Pat Mitchell took heat for a cartoon which featured a rabbit named Buster who visits a lesbian couple — she will step down when her contract expires in June 2006. Kathleen Cox, who was prexy-CEO of CPB, apparently in favor of a former chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, has exited the corporation.

And veteran news commentator Bill Moyers is being counterweighted by Paul Gigot, who hosts “The Wall Street Journal Editorial Report.”

It remains to be seen how far Tomlinson will take his blueprint for a so-called “balanced” PBS. Some program producers fret that his idea of balance translates to the Bush-Cheney party line. This would be a tragic loss for broadcasting.

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