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Sean Daly, Michelle Stark and Sharon Kennedy Wynne

Tomlinson Taken to the Woodshed -- Finally

16

November

It's SOP for the GOP. (Standard Operating Procedure for the Grand Old Party, for those of you who don't do acronym-speak).

The strategy: Take over a government agency you oppose by installing leaders who previously worked against the agency or its traditional goals. Use those leaders to make the institution as ineffective or controversial as possibe. Then underfund the office.

Some of these tactics were laid bare Tuesday by the release of a report from the inspector general's office of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting which says former chair Ken Tomlinson repeatedly broke federal law in his efforts to counter a perceived liberal bias in public broadcasting.

As many pundits noted when Tomlinson's actions first came to light, the CPB was initially created to insulate public broadcasting from political pressure -- a significant concern, given the level of funding which comes from Congress.

Instead, the IG's report concludes Tomlinson violated the law through actions such as being too involved in the creation of a PBS show featuring the Wall Street Journal's reliably conservative editorial board and imposing political standards on the search for CPB's president (a job which eventually went to former Republican National Committee co-chair Patricia Harrison). The report also criticized Tomlinson's move to hire a White House employee to help draft a plan for creating independent ombudsmen for CPB and secretly hire an analyst with conservative ties to monitor PBS programs for bias.

Tomlinson, who resigned from the CPB board following closed-door meetings where a draft of the IG's report was discussed, released a statement with the report denying its conclusions.

But anyone who has monitored the odd story of Tomlinson's clumsy efforts to intimidate public broadcasting programmers recognizes the truth in this recounting. It only highlights the futility of conservatives' attempts to dismantle public broadcasting -- which remains a popular resource with the people and has evolved new revenue streams to reduce dependence on the government.

Given the growing unpopularity of the Iraq war, a coming fight over Samuel Alito's Supreme Court nomination, ongoing efforts to recover from Hurricane Katrina and the looming midterm elections next year -- along with the public drubbing Tomlinson has taken from the IG -- hopefully, Republicans will conclude they have enough pressing concerns without taking on Kermit the Frog and Jim Lehrer.

SHORT TAKES - LOCAL STYLE

The Weekly Planet has dished extensively on the September departure of its circulation director, saying Zarko Bajsanski was fired amid speculation he was inaccurately reporting the number of copies of the free weekly returned each week. Until recently, both the circulation director and assistant circulation director received financial incentives to keep returns below four percent, says a story posted on the newspaper's web site.

The questions left: Despite assurances from Planet management, will this affect their official circulation numbers, which are assembled by an independent auditing company? And will this breach of trust affect how advertisers feel about the Planet? Or other free weeklies, such as tbt?

Perhaps readers will find out in tomorrow's Weekly Planet print edition.

And the Orlando Sentinel has announced plans to cut a "limited number of positions," following circulation figures revealed last week showing an 11 percent circulation weekday ciruclation drop from 2004. Dramatic proof of the kinds of staff reductions the industry feared would follow disappointing circulation figures.

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 2:34pm]

    

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