Probe of Scrutiny on PBS Is Urged

Times Staff Writer

Two Democratic congressmen called Wednesday for an investigation into recent activities by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, suggesting that efforts by the Republican chairman of the private nonprofit to put more conservative programs on PBS might violate federal law.

In a letter released Wednesday evening, Reps. David Obey of Wisconsin and John D. Dingell of Michigan asked CPB Inspector General Kenneth A. Konz to investigate the contracting, hiring and policies of the corporation, which distributes federal funds to public television stations. Both are ranking Democrats on committees that have oversight of public television.

They called recent actions taken by CPB Chairman Kenneth Tomlinson disturbing and “extremely troubling.”

A CPB spokesman could not be reached for comment. But in a recent interview with The Times, Tomlinson defended his efforts to expand conservative perspectives on PBS, saying he wanted to increase the network’s audience.


The request for an investigation into CPB came as public television officials were growing increasingly anxious that Republicans were trying to remake PBS in their image.

In their letter, the congressmen said Tomlinson had hired an outside consultant last year to monitor the political leanings of the guests that appeared on “Now with Bill Moyers” in order to bolster his case that the program had a liberal bias.

Obey, the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, and Dingell, the ranking Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, expressed concern that Tomlinson had tapped a former White House official to help draft the guidelines for two new ombudsmen for public broadcasting.

“If CPB is moving in the direction of censorship of public affairs content based on partisanship and political views,” they wrote, “this will severely erode the public trust that public broadcasting heretofore has enjoyed.”