CPB Reform Efforts Fall Short

WASHINGTON, DC – New guidelines for improving its internal governance are tepid and do little to restore the public’s faith in the scandal-ridden Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Common Cause, Free Press and the Center for Digital Democracy stated today.

At its meeting on Jan. 9, the CPB Board of Directors approved new guidelines regarding the types of matters that require the approval or notification of the Board, and established two new board committees – an Executive Compensation Committee and a Corporate Governance Committee.

Click here to view an analysis of CPB’s actions.

“The departure of Kenneth Tomlinson and the Inspector General’s report should have been a wake-up call for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, but instead it looks like they’ve hit the snooze button on their alarm,” said Common Cause President Chellie Pingree. “The CPB’s answer to serious systemic problems and a reputation for partisanship is to form committees, but that’s not good enough. The CPB must adopt unimpeachable policies governing how the Board operates, how executives are hired and how the public is kept informed of CPB actions.”

The reform groups first issued a call for stronger corporate governance and public accountability policies (see chart) in July 2005, when reports surfaced of unethical actions by then-CPB Chairman Kenneth Tomlinson. The CPB’s own Inspector General found in November that Tomlinson had violated the Code of Ethics, and that there were “serious weaknesses in the corporate governance system.”

“It’s clear that the Corporation for Public Broadcasting isn’t serious about addressing its problems,” said Josh Silver, executive director of Free Press. “Despite the litany of troubles documented at the CPB, the board has offered half-measures that won’t improve transparency or accountability. Congress must step in to contend with the severity of the crisis at the CPB.”

The groups also reiterated their call for the resignation of CPB President Patricia Harrison. The Inspector General’s report stated that “political tests” were a “major criteria” in the hiring of Harrison, a former co-chair of the Republican National Committee. The newly chartered Executive Compensation Committee is charged with developing procedures to “prevent the use of political tests or qualifications in connection with personnel decisions” – in consultation with the CPB President.

“The CPB Board just doesn’t get good corporate governance,” said Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. “Its new resolutions fail to meaningfully address the many problems raised by the Inspector General and others. Patricia Harrison and Board Chair Cheryl Halpern are clearly incapable of leading the CPB out of its current crisis.”

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