Bode, Schulz tapped by CPB

WASHINGTON — The Corp. for Public Broadcasting has appointed two journalists to share a newly created ombudsman position that will examine programming impartially.

The appointment of former NBC newsman Ken Bode and former Reader’s Digest editor William Schulz is meant to promote balance and accountability in programming.

“Congress has asked the Corp. for Public Broadcasting to both protect the production of public broadcasting from undue interference and to ensure that it represents high standards in accuracy, balance and objectivity,” said CPB topper Kathleen Cox in a statement. “The ombudsman office is a tested and reliable way to support those twin objectives.”

But at least one watchdog group perceives a conservative tilt in the appointments.

Center for Digital Democracy exec director Jeff Chester said, “The very fact that they’ve created an ombudsman position at all is significant. The CPB, itself, is supposed to be a heat shield that protects public broadcasting from political pressure.”

Under the Bush administration, the CPB board has grown increasingly conservative, and its chairman, Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, “has conservative and right-wing ties going back 20 years,” Chester said.

Chester added that, at the very least, Schulz’s appointment was “a conflict of interest” for Tomlinson, who also once worked at Reader’s Digest. “This is just more Beltway cronyism.” The office of ombudsman, Chester said, “is just another way of ratcheting up political pressure on public broadcasting by conservatives.”

Tomlinson insisted that having ombudsmen “will help ensure the goal of balance and accuracy in public broadcasting,” and that CPB “will not permit concerns over balance to allow CPB to engage in pre-broadcast censorship or post-broadcast penalties of public broadcasters.”

Cox added, “On some days we receive praise for what we do, and on other days our audiences express concerns. The new office of the ombudsmen offers an independent sounding board and a public advocate for those concerns.”

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