PBS: A Bastion Of Conservative, White, Corporatist, Men

Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting has just released a study detailing the diversity, or lack thereof, on PBS programs. The narrow scope of opinion and representation is pretty disturbing. Here are some of their findings.

PBS Be More

  • The NewsHour’s guestlist was 80 percent male and 82 percent white, with a pronounced tilt toward elites who rarely “go unheard,” like current and former government and military officials, corporate representatives and journalists.
  • Viewers were five times as likely to see guests representing corporations (10 percent v. 2 percent) than representatives of public interest groups who might counterweigh such moneyed interests–labor, consumer and environmental organizations.
  • While Democratic guests outnumbered Republican guests nearly 2-to-1 in overall sources, Republicans dominated by more than 3-to-2 in the program’s longer format, live segments.
  • On segments focusing on the Afghan War, though polls show consistent majorities of Americans have opposed the war for more than a year, not a single NewsHour guest represented an antiwar group or expressed antiwar views.

PBS is a frequent target of right-wing critics who attempt to spread the myth that the media is liberal. The proof of the contrary is evident in statistics like these. And further evidence is found in the leadership of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the source for the majority of oversight and funding of PBS. The CPB’s President is Patricia Harrison. She is a former chair of the Republican National Committee and was personally selected for the job by the former chairman of CPB, the irrepressibly corrupt Kenneth Tomlinson.

These Bush appointees formed the cornerstone of the most politicized public broadcasting infrastructure in its history. They presided over the accumulation of conservative programming and made the work of legendary journalists like Bill Moyers infinitely more difficult. Moyers is no longer with PBS. So perhaps it shouldn’t come as surprise to see the stark imbalance that is now ingrained in the network’s core programming.

Harrison’s tenure will be ending next year. Let’s hope that President Obama appoints a more credible and fair steward for our public broadcasting system.

Dana Perino And Fox News On Repressive Regimes And Propaganda

Idiot FoxEd Brayton at Science Blogs has caught a classic example of hypocrisy from a member of the class that made an art of it: the Bush administration.

Former Bush press secretary Dana Perino was on Fox News this weekend and commented on a video produced for the White House web site. She was appalled that the administration would post videos in support of its own agenda and implied that it represented some kind of affront to a free press and democracy:

[T]he White House decided through its own media — they have a robust new media shop and they’re creating their own news and they’re posting it, and all the networks said that they’re not going to show it. But creating your own news is something that happens in repressive regimes. And a democracy is — it is critical to have a good, strong free press in a democracy.

Let’s dissect the idiocy of this comment. First of all, you cannot accuse the White House of “creating your own news” in the sentence following your observation that “all the networks said that they’re not going to show it.” If no news network is showing it then it is simply an informational video available only to visitors to the White House web site.

Secondly, if anything, this affirms the strong free press Perino is lamenting. Obviously they are making up their own minds with regard to what they consider news. If they they don’t want to broadcast the President’s video, they don’t have to. And according to Perino, they aren’t.

But most importantly, Perino has deliberately withheld her own complicity with assaults on the free press as a member of Bush’s press team. It was the Bush administration that repeatedly packaged phony news reports that they distributed to television stations with the intent that they be broadcast in whole. These pseudo-news reels were produced with a fake “anchor” and were aired by many stations without disclosing that they came from the Bush propaganda studio.

Under the Bush administration, the federal government has aggressively used a well-established tool of public relations: the prepackaged, ready-to-serve news report that major corporations have long distributed to TV stations to pitch everything from headache remedies to auto insurance. In all, at least 20 federal agencies, including the Defense Department and the Census Bureau, have made and distributed hundreds of television news segments in the past four years, records and interviews show. Many were subsequently broadcast on local stations across the country without any acknowledgement of the government’s role in their production.

This sort of deception was routine in the Bush years. They were also caught paying Armstrong Williams under the table to write glowing reviews about their education policy, “No Child Left Behind.” The Bush Pentagon was entangled in a scandal wherein they paid editors of Iraqi newspapers to publish articles secretly written by American soldiers praising the war effort and the occupation of Iraq. And let’s not forget Jeff Gannon, the right-wing mole who was planted in the White House Press Corps under Bush. Or the irrepressibly corrupt Kenneth Tomlinson, who chaired the Broadcasting Board of Governors which oversees the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

SpinComThen there was what may be the worst episode of propaganda aimed directly at Americans in our nation’s history: SPINCOM. This was a program run out of Bush’s Pentagon that served up former generals to news networks as military analysts. They were trained by the Pentagon to promote the administration’s agenda and were rewarded with access and contracts for the defense companies they represented. And none of this was disclosed to viewers, or even to the networks.

The abuse of an independent and unfettered press under Perino and her bosses was unparalleled. For her to criticize the current administration for posting some videos online, while ignoring her own participation in a full-blown propaganda operation, specifically targeting the media and the American people, is the pinnacle of hypocrisy and dishonesty. Add to that the fact that she made these assertions as an employee of Fox News and it is at least evidence of the following: She and Fox are bona fide experts on repressive regimes and propaganda.

Bush Nominates Clifford May To Propaganda Board

The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) is the federal agency responsible for all U.S. government and government sponsored, non-military, international broadcasting. Its affiliates include the Voice of America, Alhurra, Radio Free Europe, and Radio and TV Martí. If its mission was not originally intended to be a purveyor of propaganda, the Bush administration has seen to it that that is what it has become.

Now President Bush has made his latest attempt to further mire the agency in disgrace by nominating Clifford May to the Board. May is a former Republican National Committee communications director and the President of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, whose list of directors and advisors reads like a who’s who of neocon warmongers. He is an advocate of torture abroad, the suspension of civil liberties at home, and always the supremacy of America by virtue of its military might. As a writer for the National Review and a frequent guest on television news programs, he has a record of deliberately inflammatory and partisan rhetoric. Here are a few examples:

On coddling terrorists: “[Democrats] demand that foreign terrorists abroad be given the same privacy protections enjoyed by American citizens here at home.”

Actually, Democrats were demanding that Americans be given the privacy protections they are promised by the Constitution.

On the success of the surge
: “…the threat of an Iraqi civil war has diminished and there is no ‘resistance’ movement to speak of.”

Since May made this claim, 236 more American troops died in Iraq, along with 4,591 Iraqis.

On the Left as traitors: “…some of those on the left who would like to see America defeated in Iraq as a demonstration exercise that U.S. power never, never can be used for good.”

Setting aside the repulsive assertion that the Left is rooting for defeat, May erroneously implies that there is some good in BushCo’s occupation of Iraq.

This isn’t the first time Bush has used the BBG for blatantly political purposes. He had previously installed the utterly corrupt Kenneth Tomlinson as chairman. Tomlinson, thankfully, didn’t last long.

The circumstances proximate to May’s nomination further illustrate Bush’s purposeful mission to staff the BBG with faithful cronies. To make way for May, Bush had to withdraw his previous nominee, Mark McKinnon. McKinnon himself is a loyal Republican who worked on both Bush presidential campaigns. He was also a sitting member of the Board, having received a recess appointment from Bush in December of 2006. McKinnon’s fate was sealed, however, when earlier this year he resigned his post as the lead media consultant for John McCain saying…

“I just don’t want to work against an Obama candidacy. [Electing Obama] would send a great message to the country and the world.”

Despite insisting that he remains a “friend and fan” of the McCain campaign, whatever loyalty and qualifications he had that justified his prior service and nomination were null and void as he no longer displayed sufficient unquestioning partisanship. The Bushies require greater obsequiousness than that.

May still needs to be confirmed by the Senate to take a seat on the Board. With less than six months remaining in Bush’s term it would be idiocy for the Senate to do so. That obviously doesn’t rule out the possibility that they will. The FISA bill that the Senate passed last week was fully in line with May’s position on the issue. And it passed with Barack Obama’s vote. That should be an indication of how much we can rely on the Senate to do the right thing.

The Same Kenneth Tomlinson

The irrepressibly corrupt Kenneth Tomlinson has informed the White House that he will not seek renomination as chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG).

This is the same Kenneth Tomlinson that “improperly used his office, putting a friend on the payroll and running a “horse-racing operation” with government resources.”

This is the same Kenneth Tomlinson that presided over the Voice of America as it closed its Baghdad bureau because they could not retain journalists to staff it.

This is the same Kenneth Tomlinson who sheepishly resigned as chair of the Corporation For Public Broadcasting in advance of a report that found that he violated the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967.

This is the same Kenneth Tomlinson that paid $15,000 in payments to two Republican lobbyists that were not disclosed to the Corporation’s board.

This is the same Kenneth Tomlinson that had taken overtly partisan steps to remake the CPB as a publicly financed Fox News – hiring Tucker Carlson and Paul Gigot and recruiting a former co-chairman of the Republican National Committee as president of PBS.

This is the same Kenneth Tomlinson engaged in ethically-questionable tactics to discredit Bill Moyers, former host of PBS’ Now.

Now this same Kenneth Tomlinson is jumping ship rather than face the newly elected Democratic majority in the senate that would be unlikely to reconfirm him anyway. And in his message to the President, in a pique of denial and self-righteousness, he declares:

“I have concluded that it would be far more constructive to write a book on my experiences rather than to seek to continue government service. Accordingly, I ask that you nominate another person to serve as chairman of this board.”

I think we can expect that his book will reveal that he was a victim of the secular progressive cabal that his hero Bill O’Reilly rails against. We can expect that he will deny any wrongdoing and that he only tried to serve his country. Nevermind all the evidence against him, we can expect to learn that it was actually another scoundrel that was responsible for these misdeeds (probably Bill Clinton).

In short we can expect that the book will reveal the very same Kenneth Tomlinson. An alligator doesn’t change its scales.

Once A Corrupt Crony, Always…

The disgraced former head of the Corporation for Public Propaganda Broadcasting was caught again with his hand in the till.

The Washington Post reporting on the incorrigible Kenneth Tomlinson:

“A year-long State Department investigation has found that the chairman of the agency that oversees Voice of America and other government broadcasting operations [the Broadcast Board of Governors] improperly used his office, putting a friend on the payroll and running a “horse-racing operation” with government resources.”

In addition to being an embezzler, and a reprobate, he is also an incompetent manager. Last May, the Voice of America closed its Baghdad bureau because they could not retain journalists to staff it. Tomlinson and the agency he leads was unable to maintain a presence in a part of the world where that presence may be most needed.

Yet the Bush administration is not only defending him, but is re-nominating him as chair of the BBG. How many crimes does it take for this president to cut the cord on his cronies? It appears that there is actually an inverse relationship toward service and criminal behavior at BushCo. The more crime you commit, the more reward you receive.

Corporation For Propaganda Broadcasting: Update

The long-awaited report by the Inspector General of the Corporation For Public Broadcasting (CPB) was released yesterday and it confirms the unethical and illegal behavior of the CPB’s former chairman. Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, who sheepishly resigned from the board in advance of the report’s release, was found to have violated the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967. This is one of those laws that have no criminal penalties attached to it. Very useful as a deterrant and for lawmakers who don’t want to actually hold their freinds accountable for anything.

But the violation, and the ethical lapses, are clearly spelled out by the IG. Tomlinson improperly hired partisan consultants to monitor PBS programming. The CPB was formed to be a shield to prevent political hackery from infecting public broadcasting. Obviously Tomlinson ignored that prohibition, but the contract itself violated internal rules and was not authorized through standard procedures. He even lied to Congress by claiming that the contract was signed by the then-CPB president, Kathleen Cox. As it turns out, it was Tomlinson’s signature on the contract which was dated five months before Ms. Cox became president.

The release of this report does not, however, wrap up the parade of mideeds. During Tomlinson’s tenure, he hand-picked the current CPB president, Patricia S. Harrison. She is a former chair of the Republican National Committee. The report shows that “political tests” were used as a major factor in her hiring. This matter cannot be considered to be resolved until she resigns and a legally recruited and approved president is installed in her place. How can anyone consider her to be a legitimate manager when the process used to select her was ruled illegal and/or unethical? There is a lot of cleaning up to do at the CPB after Tomlinson’s disgraceful mis-leadership. And it has to start with Harrison’s resignation.

Corporation For Propaganda Broadcasting: Part II

gopbsAs if having longtime Republican Kenneth Tomlinson chairing the CPB and pushing for former RNC chairwoman Pat Harrison for CEO wasn’t bad enough, now we have fiscal impropriety and more politics.

Investigators at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting are examining $15,000 in payments to two Republican lobbyists last year that were not disclosed to the corporation’s board, people involved in the inquiry said on Wednesday…..One of the lobbyists was retained at the direction of the corporation’s Republican chairman, Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, they said, and the other at the suggestion of his Republican predecessor…..The investigators, in the corporation’s inspector general’s office, are also examining $14,170 in payments made under contracts – which Mr. Tomlinson took the unusual step of signing personally, also without the knowledge of board members…

One of the lobbyists, Brian Darling, who was paid $10,000, is the former aide to Senator Mel Martinez of Florida. He resigned after he was identified as the author of a memorandum describing how to exploit politically the Terri Schiavo affair. The other lobbyist was Mark Buse, a former top aide to Senator John McCain.

On the political front…
Item: Senator Byron L. Dorgan, (D-ND), requested the lobbyist’s reports about Bill Moyer’s “Now” program, but Tomlinson provided him instead with the raw data used to produce the reports. The data described Senator Chuck Hagel, R-NE), as a “liberal” due to his appearance on a segment that questioned the Bush Administration’s policies in Iraq. Hagel, of course, is a reliable conservative with an occassional maverick streak. Another segment about financial waste at the Pentagon was classified as “anti-Defense,” These reports represent a clear misuse of taxpayer money for partisan political purposes. Dorgan, along with Senators Clinton (D-NY) and Lautenberg (D-NJ) sent Tomlinson a letter asking that he suspend his efforts on behalf of Patricia Harrison, the former RNC co-chair he favors as the corporation’s next president.

Item: E-mail messages show that Tomlinson directed Kathleen Cox, then president of the corporation, to send material to Mary C. Andrews, the White House director of global communications. They show that Ms. Andrews worked on a variety of ombudsman issues before joining the corporation, while still on the White House payroll. A month later, Mr. Tomlinson said in an interview that he did not think he had instructed a anyone to send material on the ombudsman project to Ms. Andrews, a political appointee. Copies of the e-mail messages were given to the New York Times, under an agreement of anonymity, by a senior CPB executive who is concerned about Tomlinson’s stewardship. The e-mails show a clear violation of the CPB’s charter to act as a buffer to prevent political influence over PBS.

Item: The White House has nominated Dina Powell, currently the White House personnel director, to the post of deputy under secretary of state for public diplomacy, reporting to former Bush advisor, Karen P. Hughes. Senator Joe Biden has held up the nomination because of the White House’s attempt to remove Norman J. Pattiz, a major figure on the Broadcasting Board of Governors that oversees American international broadcasting efforts.

“When I called the White House and asked why my name wasn’t sent forward, they said that it was under review,” Mr. Pattiz said. “It was under review because my name had appeared in a Kerry campaign ad last year. That’s the explanation I got.”

The Broadcast Board of Governors is, by law, made up of four Republicans and four Democrats. So the White House is seeking to punish a board member for his political affiliation when such affiliation is a de facto condition of board membership. Should Pattiz not be renominated, his replacement would also have to be a Democrat. Also, sources in the Senate said Mr. Pattiz had tangled with Tomlinson [him again] over Tomlinson’s interference in staff decisions that were within Pattiz’ jurisdiction. Think that has anything to do with his stalled renomination?

As I’ve said before, the CPB is history. Who’s up for creating a new public broadcasting funding institution?

The latest bad news for Tomlinson is that 16 senators signed a letter to President Bush calling for Tomlinson to be fired. The article describing this development also contains this gem:

In a letter to Senator Byron L. Dorgan, Democrat of North Dakota, on May 24, Mr. Tomlinson said he saw no need to consult with the board about the contract with the researcher, Fred Mann, because it was “approved and signed by then CPB President, Kathleen Cox.” But a copy of the contract provided by a person unhappy with Mr. Tomlinson’s leadership shows that Mr. Tomlinson signed it on Feb. 3, 2004, five months before Ms. Cox became president.

The sleaze goes on…..