Massachusetts Democrat calls for Tomlinson to quit

Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), ranking member of a House panel on telecommunications, called at a rally yesterday in support of public broadcasting for the resignation of Kenneth Tomlinson.

“In his zeal to impose his own view of ‘political balance,’” said Markey, “Ken Tomlinson has lost sight of his core mission — to protect the children’s-television network of the Public Broadcasting System of America. And he should resign from his position as the head of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting” (CPB).

patrick g. ryan
Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.)


Tomlinson has come under fire recently for hiring an ombudsman to gauge perceived biases in PBS shows such as “Now,” previously hosted by Bill Moyers. Liberals say such an action is tantamount to government censorship.

Markey also called on Tomlinson to resign as chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which oversees the Voice of America, Alhurra and other government-sponsored international broadcasting operations.

Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.) echoed Markey’s sentiment, calling Tomlinson “a propagandist.”

At the rally in front of the Cannon House Office Building, House and Senate Democrats presented Congress with more than 1 million signatures calling for the restoration of full funding for public broadcasting. The fiscal year 2006 labor-HHS-education appropriations bill sent to the House floor for debate this week mandates cuts in excess of $100 million for public television and radio, including a 25 percent cut for the CPB.

Joined by stars of PBS children’s programming, including “Clifford the Big Red Dog,” “Maya & Miguel” and “Between the Lions,” Democrats hailed the educational nature of public broadcasting, especially in contrast to the content of commercial broadcasts.

Markey said that, while PBS stations “offer up to 12 hours per day of nutritious, beneficial children’s programming,” commercial broadcast networks program shows like “Jerry Springer,” “Montel” “Maury,” “Judge Hatchett” and “Divorce Court.”

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) agreed that commercial networks are not providing sufficient educational programming, noting that, according to the National Television Violence Study, “children are exposed to six acts of violence and hour, and violence on the so-called commercial ‘children’s shows’ is on the rise.”

“The idea of taking away the money for children is particularly offensive,” said Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.).

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), founder of the Bipartisan Congressional Public Broadcasting Caucus, emphasized that the cuts would hurt what he sees as a unifying force in the country.

“Today, because of the multiplicity of choices, we really don’t have that national voice that once united us,” Blumenauer said. “NPR, PBS are as close to a national voice as America has any more.”

Blumenauer added, “The areas that will be denied public broadcasting services if this scheme is allowed to go forward will be areas of rural America, small-town America, where it’s more expensive to broadcast and where there isn’t the population base to make up the difference.”

Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), ranking member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, said, “We have a message today for the Republicans: don’t mess with public broadcasting.”

Tomlinson and a spokesman for the House Appropriations Committee could not be reached for comment by press time.