150,000 Americans Sign a Petition Asking the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to “Stop Playing Politics with Public Broadcasting”

Common Cause – Free Press – Center for Digital Democracy

Contact: Mary Boyle, Common Cause, 202-736-5770

Craig Aaron, Free Press, 202-265-1492, ext 25

Jeff Chester, Center for Digital Democracy, 202-494-7100

150,000 Americans Sign a Petition Asking the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to “Stop Playing Politics with Public Broadcasting”

Public Interest Groups Present Signatures to CPB Protest Vote To Hire Former RNC Co-Chair As New President

WASHINGTON, DC – Common Cause, Free Press and the Center for Digital Democracy today demanded that Corporation for Public Broadcasting Chairman Kenneth Tomlinson stop politicizing public broadcasting and find a better qualified candidate as CPB president than the current choice, Patricia Harrison, a former Republican National Committee co-chairwoman with no experience in public broadcasting.

“We call on Mr. Tomlinson to stop his partisan meddling and respect public broadcasting’s mission in a democracy. As citizens, taxpayers and public broadcasting listeners, we’re all deeply concerned about the current direction of the CPB,” said Common Cause President Chellie Pingree.

The CPB provides federal funds to public radio and television broadcasting, including children’s television programs on Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), such as ‘Sesame Street.’ Recently, Republicans in Congress have targeted PBS for deep funding cuts and conservatives have complained about a liberal bias on PBS and about a children’s show in which some of the characters visited a farm in Vermont that was run by a family headed by two women.

The media reform groups delivered to CPB headquarters petition signatures of nearly 150,000 people, saying that Tomlinson must stop playing politics with CPB and protect the editorial independence of public broadcasting.

The signatures were collected from petitions circulated by Common Cause and by Free Press.

The Common Cause petition, available at www.commoncause.org, asks the CBP to “change course immediately,” and:

Stop efforts to influence programming decisions at National Public Radio (NPR) and PBS;

Eliminate the two ombudsman positions recently created to evaluate and critique public broadcasting programs for bias.

Support the appointment of CPB board members who have demonstrated expertise and commitment to public broadcasting as opposed to the current system, which favors the appointment of partisans.

Assure journalists working for public broadcasting that they can conduct fact-based reporting critical of government without fear of reprisals.

The Free Press petition, available at http://www.freepress.net/action/pbs, demands that Congress, the CPB and PBS station managers remove Tomlinson from his post and support town meetings in local communities on the future of PBS.

Free Press, Consumers Union, Common Cause, Media Access Project and the Consumer Federation of America have called for a series of town hall meetings to give the public a stronger voice in the process, before lawmakers and bureaucrats attempt to establish politically motivated standards for PBS and other public broadcasters.

Timothy Karr, campaign director of Free Press, said: “Tomlinson insists that he’s trying to save public broadcasting by restoring ‘balance’ to its programs. But his partisan meddling tells a different story, about a political hack seeking to destroy trust in PBS and local stations. If the future of public broadcasting is to be decided in a positive direction, it needs to be done from the bottom up, by the people, and not through the secret dealings of White House operatives.”

Jeffrey Chester, executive director of Center for Digital Democracy said: “Tomlinson has helped to endanger public broadcasting. Under his leadership, there are serious problems of financial and management malfeasance at CPB. He must resign.”

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