by Michael Winship
In the current controversy over the possible elimination of Federal funding for PBS and National Public Radio, alleged liberal bias in public broadcasting and reports of Republican and White House meddling in the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, one of the hot points has been a study commissioned by CPB Chairman Ken Tomlinson.
The May 2 New York Times reported, "Without the knowledge of his board... Tomlinson contracted last year with an outside consultant to keep track of the guests' political leanings on one program, 'Now with Bill Moyers.'"
(In the interest of full disclosure, and as previously stated, over the years, off and on, I have been a Moyers colleague and employee.)
In a June 16 follow-up, Times reporter Stephen Labaton revealed that CPB's inspector general has been investigating $14,700 in payments to an Indiana man named Fred Mann under contracts "which Mr. Tomlinson took the unusual step of signing personally" for the report on the Moyers program.
This, and $15,000 in payments to two Republican lobbyists, Labaton wrote, "are part of a broader examination by the inspector general of Mr. Tomlinson's efforts to bring what he says is more political balance to public television and radio and what critics say is political interference in programming."
As to the author of the Moyers report, the Times reported, "Mr. Mann, who was listed in the contracts as living in Indianapolis, could not be located, and officials at the corporation said they knew nothing about him."
Here's what I know.
Although as of this writing he has yet to return phone calls or e-mail's from me or other journalists, I know that Fred Mann -- to put it mildly -- has a history of involvement with conservative politics. There's little information about him to be found via Google or other Internet searches, but a portrait emerges via those with whom he has been associated.
In 1997-98, reporting in Insight on the News, the bi-weekly owned by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church, its senior writer David Webster (now an associate professor of law at Pat Robertson's Regent University) used Mann as a source several times.
Webster described him as a veteran, Washington-based conservative and GOP consultant, and in one article as "a self-styled 'old right' consultant and commentator who handled Dan Quayle's successful challenge to Indiana Sen. Birch Bayh in 1980."
During the mid-to-late eighties, Mann did some writing himself, political analyses in the conservative journal National Review.
Now believed in poor health, Mann's most recent position was as director of the job bank and alumni services at the National Journalism Center in Herndon, Virginia. The National Journalism Center trains and finds internships and jobs for conservative journalists at newspapers, wire services and magazines, including the Washington bureau of Reader's Digest, of which Tomlinson was editor-in-chief.
The National Journalism Center is administered by the Young America's Foundation, which is, in turn, affiliated with the right-wing Young Americans for Freedom. The foundation describes itself as "the principal outreach organization of the Conservative Movement."
The National Journalism Center's alumni include Ann Coulter, Wall Street Journal columnist and editorial board member John Fund and Maggie Gallagher, the writer who was paid by the Department of Health and Human Service to perform promotion work for the Bush administration's marriage promotion initiative -- while at the same time extolling it in her column.
The Center has received funding from Exxon Mobil and Philip Morris as well as the right-wing John M. Olin and Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundations.
The objective of the Bradley Foundation has been described by the liberal Center for Media and Democracy as "to return the U.S. -- and the world -- to the days before governments began to regulate Big Business, before corporations were forced to make concessions to an organized labor force. In other words, laissez-faire capitalism: capitalism with the gloves off."
The full Mann report on Moyers has yet to be released to the public, but in remarks delivered on the Senate floor last week, South Dakota Democrat Byron Dorgan reported that at his request he had received from Ken Tomlinson the "raw data" used in the report.
The data "is unusual and strange," Sen. Dorgan said. "We have all of these sheets that describe the guests and it says: anti-Bush, anti-Bush, pro-Bush, anti-Bush. It appears to me to be not so much an evaluation of is this slanted, is it liberal, does it have an agenda; it is the evaluation of is this program critical of the President?"
He notes that conservative Nebraska Republican Chuck Hagel "appeared on one of the programs, and he apparently disagreed with a portion of President Bush's strategy with respect to Iraq. So my colleague, Senator Hagel, is referred to as liberalÉ My guess is that is going to surprise a lot of Nebraskans."
I detail all of this to make a single, cogent point: Mr. Tomlinson wrote PBS President Pat Mitchell that the Moyers show "does not contain anything approaching the balance the law requires for public broadcasting."
But who does Tomlinson hire to measure the program's "left-wing bias?" Not an objective observer but someone from the opposite end of the political spectrum, someone guaranteed to buttress Tomlinson's pre-existing prejudice.
It's just one in a series of misdeeds, including Tomlinson's efforts to make Patricia Harrison, a fiercely partisan former co-chair of the Republican National Committee, the new president of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and e-mail's leaked to the New York Times and National Public Radio disproving Tomlinson's claim that the White House has not attempted to meddle with CPB and public broadcasting content.
What it suggests is a concerted attempt to remove from the air sources of information more comprehensive than most found in the commercial spectrum, part of a broader effort to keep the public in the dark about the policies and actions of the current administration.
For Tomlinson, it adds up to a single, cogent word of advice: Resign.
June 21, 2005 (http://www.albionmonitor.com) All Rights Reserved. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for permission to use in any format.
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