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PBS shifts policy amid bias claims

Net revises its editorial policy

WASHINGTON — Public Broadcasting Service has updated its editorial policies and hired an ombudsman, though officials said neither move comes in response to recent criticism that PBS has a liberal bias.

PBS topper Pat Mitchell said the org had been thinking about adding an ombudsman “for quite some time,” noting that National Public Radio has had once since 2000.

The Corp. for Public Broadcasting — which provides taxpayer dollars — hired two ombudsmen in April. Critics charged that by hiring the duo, CPB chair Ken Tomlinson was trying to push a conservative agenda on PBS.

Tomlinson, a Republican, has said repeatedly he believes public broadcasting has a liberal bias that needs to be balanced by conservative views.

Mitchell said adding an ombudsman for PBS will simply allow viewers to communicate directly and easily about programming. But decision comes on the heels of congressional Republicans’ proposal last week to reduce funding for public broadcasting by 25%.

A review and update of editorial policies have been taking place since last year. PBS brought in analysts from the Society of Professional Journalists and the Poynter Institute of Media Studies, among others, to evaluate practices and recommend any changes.

In their report, they concluded that PBS practices, last updated in 1987, are “well conceived and remarkably contemporary, and … PBS should (therefore) continue to operate according to the overall principles it articulates.”

Still, the report said “a hallmark for PBS in its approach and its content going forward should be transparency.”

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