Friday, November 04, 2005

Bye, Bye Tomlinson

Bert and Ernie waving together, looking out of a Sesame Street window? Waving goodbye to Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, who has resigned his post on the board of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The resignation, though very welcome to us rabid lefties, is largely symbolic as Tomlinson's term was to run out next January anyway.

Tomlinson was in charge of the planned wingnut takeover of the Public Broadcasting System, and as part of this venture he commissioned a study which was hilarious in its incompetency. He also carried on in other odd ways:

Despite Tomlinson's high-profile campaign, it was his behind-the-scenes moves that apparently contributed to his departure.

The CPB's inspector general has been investigating Tomlinson's practice of using agency money to hire consultants and lobbyists without notifying the agency's board. Tomlinson last year hired a little-known Indiana consultant to study the political leanings of guests on such programs as "Now With Bill Moyers" and "The Diane Rehm Show" on National Public Radio. He also hired lobbyists to defeat legislation that would have changed how CPB's board is structured.

The inspector, Kenneth Konz, also had been looking into whether Tomlinson violated agency procedures in his recruiting of former Republican National Committee co-chairman Patricia de Stacy Harrison to be CPB's chief executive, and into possible White House influence in the hiring of two in-house ombudsmen to critique news programs on NPR and PBS.

Konz delivered his preliminary findings to CPB's board Tuesday night, but the report will not be made public until midmonth.

In announcing Tomlinson's departure yesterday, the CPB added a curious addendum: "The board does not believe that Mr. Tomlinson acted maliciously or with any intent to harm CPB or public broadcasting, and the board recognizes that Mr. Tomlinson strongly disputes the findings in the soon-to-be-released Inspector General's report. The board expresses its disappointment in the performance of former key staff whose responsibility it was to advise the board and its members."

Mysterious, isn't it?

It may be too late to save the PBS. At least my local station has been taken over fairly completely. I recently listened to an evening of solid wingnuttery. I can get this from any commercial network without the pretense of erudition. And the CPB is still firmly in the claws of wingnuts: the new chairwoman, Cheryl F. Halpern, is a long-time contributor to the Republicans.