The tightening grip on PBS

A staff shakeup is taking the Corporation for Public Broadcasting in the direction of "conservative appeasement," says one watchdog.

Published April 13, 2005 7:34PM (EDT)

Two months ago, PBS drew criticism when a reprimand from newly appointed Education Secretary Margaret Spellings contributed to its unprecedented decision not to distribute an episode of the educational kids show, "Postcards From Buster." The cast of the show included a lesbian couple. This week, the public television shakeup continued: According to the New York Times, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which provides most of PBS's funding, is replacing its president and CEO Kathleen Cox after only nine months on the job.

Cox wasn't directly involved in the "Buster" kerfuffle. But her interim replacement is Republican-friendly former FCC chief operating officer W. Kenneth Ferree, whose primary legacy is his longtime lobbying to relax the rules regulating corporate media expansion.

Chellie Pingree, president of the progressive group Common Cause, expressed concern that Ferree's appointment demonstrates public broadcasting's continuing trend toward conservative appeasement: "These staff changes are being played out in what appears to be an increasingly politically charged environment for public broadcasting, roiled by recent administration and Congressional criticisms of certain of its programming decisions," she said. "[Ferree] seems an unlikely choice to steer C.P.B. in a way that would protect public broadcasting's editorial independence and that would ensure that no political or partisan interference mars its deeply important mission of providing substantive news and information to the American public."

By Page Rockwell

Page Rockwell is Salon's editorial project manager.

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