LA Times deceptively suggested new CPB chairman indicated different "tone" and "style" than Tomlinson

››› ››› ANDREW SEIFTER

In a September 27 article, the Los Angeles Times reported that Cheryl F. Halpern, the newly appointed chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), "indicated" in her opening remarks that she would bring a different "tone" and "style" to the job from that of outgoing chairman Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, who oversaw "one of the most divisive chapters in the corporation's 38-year history." But while also citing Halpern's 2003 Senate Commerce Committee testimony, the Times failed to identify remarks Halpern made in that testimony and elsewhere that suggest that she may be as divisive as Tomlinson. As other media outlets have noted, Halpern 1) has, like Tomlinson, accused National Public Radio (NPR) of airing news reports that are biased against Israel; and 2) touted in her Senate testimony an action taken by Voice of America and Radio Free Europe -- on whose governing board she previously served -- to "remove physically somebody who had engaged in editorialization of the news."

Times staff writers Matea Gold and Johanna Neuman reported that Halpern "alarmed some broadcasters when she said the CPB should have more authority to hold broadcasters responsible for unbalanced reporting." But the Times failed to elaborate on what this "authority" might consist of, citing only her 2003 Senate Commerce Committee hearing remark that "[t]here has to be recognition that an objective, balanced code of journalistic ethics has got to prevail across the board, and there needs to be accountability." The Times did not report that during that hearing, she had spoken approvingly of "remov[ing] physically" an allegedly biased employee while serving on the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which oversees Voice of America and Radio Free Europe.

Gold and Neuman also did not note Halpern's prior criticism of NPR, which recalls Tomlinson's very similar criticism. During his term as chairman, Tomlinson approached Center for Media and Public Affairs president S. Robert Lichter about "conducting a study on whether NPR's Middle East coverage was more favorable to Arabs than to Israelis," according to a May 16 New York Times report.

By contrast, The Washington Post offered a more thorough account of her testimony:

She has in the past been critical of NPR's reporting on the Middle East, particularly its coverage of the Israeli government. During her confirmation hearings for a seat on the CPB board in 2003, Halpern suggested that CPB members should have the authority to penalize public broadcasting journalists who air biased programs. When she was a member of the federal agency that oversees Voice of America and Radio Free Europe, she said during her confirmation hearing, "We were able to remove physically somebody who had engaged in editorialization of the news."

From the September 27 Los Angeles Times report, in which Gold and Neuman noted that Halpern has "similar views" to Tomlinson but cited her initial remarks as chairman to sharply distinguish her "style" and "tone" from that of the outgoing CPB chairman:

Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, who had led a charge against what he called the liberal slant in public broadcasting, ended his tumultuous two-year term as chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting on Monday, yielding the gavel to another Republican appointee with similar views if not a similar style.

[...]

Halpern indicated in opening remarks that her tone, at least, would be different from that of her predecessor.

"Our goal, whether it's in our support of educational children's television, insightful features and documentaries, or entertainment that sparkles, is to make public broadcasting a haven for the mind and for the spirit," Halpern said. "We have a duty to provide the public an explanation for the kind of work we do -- and we must honor the principles clearly stated in our charter: to encourage objective and balanced programming."

Media Matters for America runs the Hands Off Public Broadcasting campaign, an effort to ensure that public broadcasting remains independent and free from political pressure and to highlight conservative misinformation in and about public broadcasting.

Stories/Interests
Public Broadcasting
We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.