[Marxism] Michael Yates on Tavis Smiley show

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon May 2 16:49:22 MDT 2005

Tomorrow night Michael Yates will be interviewed by African-American 
political commentator Tavis Smiley about trade unions. Tavis's program is 
on PBS, but not all stations. If it is not available in your city, check 
the Tavis Smiley archives on Wednesday. He has audio archives of recent 
shows. Check: http://www.pbs.org/kcet/tavissmiley/archive/

Since the rightwing thug who runs PBS is intent on ridding the network of 
people like Tavis Smiley, you should check this show while you can.


NY Times, May 2, 2005
Republican Chairman Exerts Pressure on PBS, Alleging Biases

WASHINGTON, May 1 - The Republican chairman of the Corporation for Public 
Broadcasting is aggressively pressing public television to correct what he 
and other conservatives consider liberal bias, prompting some public 
broadcasting leaders - including the chief executive of PBS - to object 
that his actions pose a threat to editorial independence.

Without the knowledge of his board, the chairman, Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, 
contracted last year with an outside consultant to keep track of the 
guests' political leanings on one program, "Now With Bill Moyers."

In late March, on the recommendation of administration officials, Mr. 
Tomlinson hired the director of the White House Office of Global 
Communications as a senior staff member, corporation officials said. While 
she was still on the White House staff, she helped draft guidelines 
governing the work of two ombudsmen whom the corporation recently appointed 
to review the content of public radio and television broadcasts.

Mr. Tomlinson also encouraged corporation and public broadcasting officials 
to broadcast "The Journal Editorial Report," whose host, Paul Gigot, is 
editor of the conservative editorial page of The Wall Street Journal. And 
while a search firm has been retained to find a successor for Kathleen A. 
Cox, the corporation's president and chief executive, whose contract was 
not renewed last month, Mr. Tomlinson has made clear to the board that his 
choice is Patricia Harrison, a former co-chairwoman of the Republican 
National Committee who is now an assistant secretary of state.

Mr. Tomlinson said that he was striving for balance and had no desire to 
impose a political point of view on programming, explaining that his 
efforts are intended to help public broadcasting distinguish itself in a 
500-channel universe and gain financial and political support.

"My goal here is to see programming that satisfies a broad constituency," 
he said, adding, "I'm not after removing shows or tampering internally with 

But he has repeatedly criticized public television programs as too liberal 
overall, and said in the interview, "I frankly feel at PBS headquarters 
there is a tone deafness to issues of tone and balance."

Pat Mitchell, president and chief executive of PBS, who has sparred with 
Mr. Tomlinson privately but till now has not challenged him publicly, 
disputed the accusation of bias and was critical of some of his actions.

"I believe there has been no chilling effect, but I do think there have 
been instances of attempts to influence content from a political 
perspective that I do not consider appropriate," Ms. Mitchell, who plans to 
step down when her contract expires next year, said Friday.

Robert Coonrod, who stepped down as corporation president in July 2004, has 
known Mr. Tomlinson about 20 years and considers him a good friend. "I 
believe that his motives are exactly what he says they are," he said. Mr. 
Tomlinson is "trying to help the people in public broadcasting understand 
why some people in the conservative movement think PBS is hostile to them 
and, two, imbue public broadcasting with the notion of balance because he 
thinks that long term it's a winner in getting Congressional support."

"Whether people like the way he goes about it or not is a different issue," 
Mr. Coonrod added.

Though PBS's ratings have stabilized lately after several years of decline, 
the network has faced criticism that much of its programming - shows like 
"Antiques Roadshow" and "Masterpiece Theater" - is little different from 
what can be found on cable television. Though a huge bequest to National 
Public Radio from the estate of Joan Kroc, widow of the founder of 
McDonald's, has furthered the independence of public radio, corporate 
support and state financing for public television have slipped in recent 
years, making the nearly $400 million in federal money annually funneled 
through the corporation increasingly important.

Nor have administration officials and lawmakers been shy about challenging 
certain programming. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, for example, 
earlier this year publicly denounced a program featuring a cartoon rabbit 
named Buster who visited a pair of lesbian parents.

The corporation is a private, nonprofit entity financed by Congress to 
ensure the vitality of public television and radio. Tension is hardwired 
into its charter, where its mandate to ensure "objectivity and balance" is 
accompanied by an exhortation to maintain public broadcasting's 
independence. Mr. Tomlinson said that in his view, objectivity and balance 
meant "a program schedule that's not skewed in one direction or another." 
Some corporation board members say that complaints about ideological 
pressure are premature.

Beth Courtney, president and chief executive of Louisiana Public 
Broadcasting and one of three non-Republicans on the nine-member board, 
said there had been no chilling of journalistic efforts. "What we should 
look for are the real actions," she said. "We shouldn't speculate about 
people's motivations."

But Mr. Tomlinson's tenure has brought criticism that his chairmanship has 
been the most polarizing in a generation. Christy Carpenter, a Democratic 
appointee to the board from 1998 to 2002, said partisanship was 
"essentially nonexistent" in her first years. But once Mr. Tomlinson, a 
former editor in chief of Reader's Digest, joined in September 2000 and 
President Bush's election changed the board's political composition, the 
tenor changed, she said.

"There was an increasingly and disturbingly aggressive desire to be more 
involved and to push programming in a more conservative direction," said 
Ms. Carpenter, who is now a vice president of the Museum of Television and 
Radio. One of the more disturbing developments, she added, was a "very 
vehement dislike for Bill Moyers."

It is not a shock that Mr. Moyers's work exercised Mr. Tomlinson. He is a 
reliable source of agitation for conservatives, who complain that "Now" 
under Mr. Moyers (who left the show last year and was replaced by David 
Brancaccio) was consistently critical of Republicans and the Bush 
administration. Days after the Republicans gained control of the Senate in 
the 2002 elections, Mr. Moyers - an aide in the Lyndon B. Johnson 
administration and a former newspaper publisher who has been associated 
with PBS since the 1970's - said the entire federal government was "united 
behind a right-wing agenda" that included "the power of the state to force 
pregnant women to give up control over their own lives."

In December 2003, three months after he was elected chairman, Mr. Tomlinson 
sent Ms. Mitchell of PBS a letter outlining his concerns. " 'Now With Bill 
Moyers' does not contain anything approaching the balance the law requires 
for public broadcasting," he wrote.

Shortly after, Mr. Tomlinson hired a consultant to review Mr. Moyers's 
program; one three-month contract cost $10,000. The reports Mr. Tomlinson 
saw placed the program's guests in categories like "anti-Bush," 
"anti-business" and "anti-Tom DeLay," referring to the House majority 
leader, corporation officials said. The reports found the guests were 
overwhelmingly anti-Bush, a conclusion Mr. Moyers disputed.

Mr. Moyers said on Friday that he did not know a content review was 
undertaken but that he was not surprised. "Tomlinson has waged a 
surreptitious and relentless campaign against 'Now' and me," he said, 
dismissing complaints that he is biased. Mr. Moyers left "Now" to write a 
book but is back on public television as host of the series "Wide Angle."

Mr. Tomlinson said he conducted the content review on his own, without 
sending the results to the board or making them public, because he wanted 
to better understand complaints he was hearing without provoking a storm. 
"If I wanted to be more destructive to public broadcasting but score 
political points, I would have come out with this study a year and a half 
ago," he said.

Recently, PBS refused for months to sign its latest contract with the 
corporation governing federal financing of national programming, holding up 
the release of $26.5 million. For the first time, the corporation argued 
that PBS's agreeing to abide by its own journalistic standards was not 
sufficient, but that it must adhere to the "objectivity and balance" 
language in the charter. In a January letter to the leaders of the three 
biggest producing stations, in New York, Boston and Washington, the deputy 
general counsel of PBS warned that this could give the corporation 
editorial control, infringing on its First Amendment rights and possibly 
leading to a demand for balance in each and every show.

The corporation said it had no such plans, and the contract was finally 
signed about a month ago.

Mr. Tomlinson did help get one program, "The Journal Editorial Report," on 
the air as a way of balancing "Now." Ms. Mitchell backed the program, but 
public broadcasting officials said Mr. Tomlinson was instrumental in lining 
up $5 million in corporate financing and pressing PBS to distribute it.

Public television executives noted that Mr. Gigot's show by design features 
the members of the conservative editorial board of The Wall Street Journal, 
while Mr. Moyers's guests included many conservatives, like Ralph Reed, 
former head of the Christian Coalition; Richard Viguerie, a conservative 
political strategist; and Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax 

Mr. Tomlinson said that it was his concerns about "objectivity and balance" 
that led to the creation of a new office of the ombudsman at the 
corporation to issue reports about public television and radio broadcasts. 
But the role of a White House official in setting up the office has raised 
questions among some public broadcasting executives about its independence. 
In March, after she had been hired by the corporation but was still at the 
White House as director of the Office of Global Communications, Mary 
Catherine Andrews helped draft the office's guiding principles, set up a 
Web page and prepare a news release about the appointment of the new 
ombudsmen, officials said.

Ms. Andrews said she undertook the work at the instruction of top officials 
at the corporation. "I was careful not to work on this project during 
office hours during my last days at the White House," she said.

Mr. Tomlinson has also occasionally worked with other White House officials 
on public broadcasting issues. Last year he enlisted the presidential 
adviser Karl Rove to help kill a legislative proposal that would change the 
composition of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting's board by requiring 
the president to fill about half the seats with people who had experience 
in local radio and television. The proposal was dropped after Mr. Rove and 
the White House criticized it.

Mr. Tomlinson said he understood the need to reassure liberals that the 
traditions of public broadcasting, including public affairs programs, were 
not changing, "that we're not trying to put a wet blanket on this type of 

But his efforts to sow goodwill have shown that what he says he tries to 
project is sometimes read in a different way. Last November, members of the 
Association of Public Television Stations met in Baltimore along with 
officials from the corporation and PBS. Mr. Tomlinson told them they should 
make sure their programming better reflected the Republican mandate.

Mr. Tomlinson said that his comment was in jest and that he couldn't 
imagine how remarks at "a fun occasion" were taken the wrong way. Others, 
though, were not amused.

"I was in that room," said Ms. Mitchell. "I was surprised by the comment. I 
thought it was inappropriate." 

More information about the Marxism mailing list