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Public Broadcasting Hijacked by Conservatives

Reporters Without Borders ranked the USA at #44 among nations for freedom of press, based on its objective Press Freedom Index, down from #17 in 2002. Now this story on another facet of the "Right Wing Agenda," the propagandizing of everything the masses are told. It's getting worse, people...
Published on Monday, October 31, 2005 by CommonDreams.org
New Pub-casting Chief Completes Right-Wing Coup
by Timothy Karr

The new president of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) has stacked the agency's offices with White House propagandists and GOP loyalists in a bold-faced effort to carry forward Kenneth Tomlinson's right-wing crusade against public broadcasting.

CPB President Patricia de Stacy Harrison -- a former chairwoman of the Republican National Committee who was tapped by the CPB board in June -- has hired senior officers from the State Department's "Public Affairs and Public Diplomacy" division, which oversees government efforts to "advance U.S. interests and security and to provide the moral basis for U.S. leadership in the world."

"Public diplomacy" is gov-speak for propaganda. The CPB was created to shield public broadcasting from political interference, not to be a megaphone for the White House. Harrison's latest hires prove that the Republican loyalists at the CPB haven't been deterred from their quest to turn America's treasured public broadcasting system into partisan echo chamber.

Three new CPB hires all previously served with Harrison at the State Department, where she served as assistant secretary for educational and cultural affairs and acting undersecretary for public diplomacy and public affairs. They followed close behind her when she joined the CPB:
Tom Igsitt, now CPB's vice president for government affairs, was a driving force behind the campaign to place pro-American propaganda in Arabic media worldwide to win Arab support for the war on terror. Before joining the State Department, Isgitt was a manager for international public relations giant Burson-Marsteller; the firm has a history of placing key players in George W. Bush's presidential campaigns into top public relations jobs across the industry.

Mike Levy, the new CPB vice president of communications, served as Harrison's chief of staff when she headed the RNC. At the State Department, Levy developed "pro-active media strategies" to increase support for U.S. counter-narcotics initiatives in more than 100 countries as part of the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs. He also previously worked as special assistant to Labor Secretary Elaine Chao and as press secretary to several GOP congressional campaigns.

Helen Mobley, hired as CPB's senior director of corporate communications and planning, worked closely with Harrison to manage the State Department's efforts to bring Afghan women to America to showcase new freedoms after the downfall of the Taliban regime. Mobley also was deputy director of scheduling during George W. Bush's first presidential run and has been active in GOPUSA.com, Bobby Eberle's Texas-based campaign "to spread the conservative message throughout America." Eberle became known earlier this year for having hired J.D. Guckert -- aka Jeff Gannon -- as his White House corresondent. I prepared extensive profiles of these CPB hires at Free Press.

The packing of CPB with individuals more comfortable with selling U.S. propaganda than with honest journalism sends a not-so-subtle signal to those working in public broadcasting that truth is out and spin is in.

Harrison got her own position at CPB through her political connections to then-Chairman Kenneth Tomlinson, who also heads the Broadcasting Board of Governors -- which oversees the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, Radio and TV Marti and other government-run international broadcasting. Tomlinson's successor, current CPB Chairwoman Cheryl Halpern, is another big GOP fundraiser who spent seven years as a member of the Broadcasting Board of Governors.

Tomlinson is currently being investigated for efforts to impose his political agenda at CPB by funding programming with a pro-government slant, secretly monitoring PBS and NPR for signs of "liberal advocacy journalism," as well as hiring unqualified political cronies like Harrison. Inspector General Kenneth Konz is expected to present his findings -- which reportedly included ethical and procedural violations as well as misuse of funds -- on Tuesday to a closed-door meeting of the CPB board of directors, of which Tomlinson remains a member.

"CPB is being governed more like a private, secret society than an agency supported by taxpayers," said Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. "As the hiring of former State Department propaganda colleagues by Patricia Harrison illustrates, the CPB has been ideologically hijacked."

Free Press, the Center for Digital Democracy and Common Cause have repeatedly called for greater openness and accountability at the CPB. Earlier this year, we delivered more than 150,000 petitions to the CPB, demanding Tomlinson step down and boardmembers end their partisan interference with public broadcasting.

To add your name to the petition visit the Free Press action page.

Timothy Karr is the campaign director of Free Press. Karr was the executive director of the MediaChannel and Media for Democracy.