Common Cause Letter Opposing Warren Bell's Nomination to the CPB

September 20, 2006

Common Cause Letter Opposing Warren Bell's Nomination to the CPB

Senator Ted Stevens

Chairman, Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation

United States Senate

508 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Washington, DC 20510-6125

Dear Chairman Stevens:

Tomorrow your committee will consider three nominations to the Board of Directors of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB). Two of those candidates, Ms. Chris Boskin and The Honorable David Pryor, have demonstrated a commitment to public service that will serve the CPB well. However, we have serious misgivings about the third nominee, Mr. Warren Bell.

The visionaries who created public broadcasting - including Common Cause founder John Gardner - established the CPB as a nonprofit corporation providing federal funds to public radio and television stations. CPB's primary mission has always been to serve as a "heat shield" between government and public broadcasting, ensuring high-quality programming that is protected from government or ideological interference.

Mr. Bell, who has made his career writing and producing situation comedies, has no discernable background in public broadcasting, education or public service. He also pens a column for National Review Online, where he has left a trail of inflammatory comments in his wake. His disinterest in public broadcasting (he recently remarked that he prefers sports talk radio to NPR) coupled with his extreme partisanship make him an inappropriate candidate for the Board of the CPB.

One hallmark of public broadcasting has been its award-winning investigative journalism. But Mr. Bell would like to see public broadcasters move away from "unscripted" programming such as news, public affairs talk shows and documentaries in favor of scripted programming. He has also made many questionable comments about women, minorities and the underprivileged that give us concern about his fitness to serve on the CPB Board.

This is a delicate time for the CPB. The agency is just recovering from the missteps of Ken Tomlinson, who was rebuked by the CPB's own Inspector General for allowing partisanship to drive his decision-making. Any new Board members must be above reproach.

We fear Mr. Bell could do more harm than good for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. While we have no hesitation supporting the nominations of Ms. Boskin and Gov. Pryor, we must urge you to oppose Mr. Bell.


Chellie Pingree

President and CEO

Common Cause

cc: Members of the Senate Commerce Committee

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