Kenneth Tomlinson

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Kenneth Y. Tomlinson was renominated November 14, 2006, by President George W. Bush as chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors for a term on the board expiring August 13, 2007, "even though the nomination has been stalled in the Senate amid allegations of misconduct." [1]

In November 2005, Tomlinson resigned as chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), a position to which he was elected in September 2003. [2][3] Tomlinson's resignation was due to adverse findings of an internal investigation by the CPB Inpsector General, Kenneth Konz, into Tomlinson's controversial use of outside "bias ratings" to make executive decisions regarding shows such as NOW with Bill Moyers. Findings from the investigation were released in a November 15th, 2005 report in which Konz found Tomlinson had violated statutory provisions and the board's code of ethics in regards to how he dealt with programmers creating new public affairs programs. Konz also states Tomlinson improperly reviewed shows and applied political tests when seeking a CEO and president for the CPB. [4]

In a statement released ahead of the report announcing Tomlinson's resignation, the board said:

"The board does not believe that Mr. Tomlinson acted maliciously or with any intent to harm CPB or public broadcasting, and the board recognizes that Mr. Tomlinson strongly disputes the findings in the soon-to-be-released Inspector General's report...Nonetheless, both the board and Mr. Tomlinson believe it is in the best interests of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting that he no longer remain on the board." [5]


Tomlinson began his career in journalism as a reported for the Richmond Times Despatch in 1965. In 1968 he moved to the Washington bureau of the Readers Digest working with them as a correspondent in Vietnam and in 1977-78 from their Paris bureau. Between 1982 and 1984 he was a director of Voice of America, a position he was appointed to by the Reagan administration. He then took up a position as managing editor at Readers Digest becoming executive editor in 1985 and editor-in-chief from 1989 to 1996.[6]

He resigned from Readers Digest in 1996 to work on the 1996 presidential campaign of Republican aspirant Steve Forbes.[7]

In 1985 he was appointed chairman of the National Commission on Libraries and Information Science. From 1986 to 1994 he was a member of the U.S. Board for International Broadcasting.

Tomlinson's Role at CPB

Since being elected chair of the CPB Tomlinson has assertively moved to reshape CPB and influence the content of the public broadcasters it funds. Tomlinson hired Mary Catherine Andrews as a senior staff member at CPB. While still working as director of the White House Office of Global Communications Andrews advised Tomlinson on the establishment of an ombudsman's office for CPB. [8] She has also played a role in the appointment of two conservative ombudsman, Ken Bode and William Schultz.

Tomlinson also commissioned a $14,170 study into alleged bias against Bill Moyers PBS program, "Now with Bill Moyers" but didn't inform the board of the investigation. (Moyers hosted the program until December 2004).[9] The unscientific study classified guests as "liberal" or "conservative" and classified segments using such labels as "anti-Bush", "anti-DeLay", and "anticorporation".

While Tomlinson has publicly accused the "Now" program of being "liberal advocacy journalism", he played an central role in raising $5 million to underwrite the The Journal Editorial Report, a program by the uniformly conservative Wall Street Journal editorial board and aired on PBS. [10]

In April 2005 the contract of the former CBT chief executive, Kathleen Cox, was not renewed. She was replaced by Ken Feree, a Republican and former adviser to former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Michael Powell.

Tomlinson has also been criticised for offering only heavily qualified opposition to a proposed 40% cut to the CPB's budget. In May 2005 it was revealed that Tomlinson was backing former co-chair of the Republican Party, Patricia Harrison, as his preferred candidate for chief executive of CPB. [11] In late June the CPB Board announced that she had been selected for the position. [12]

Scrutiny of Tomlinson's Role at BBG

In the aftermath of the damning CPB investigation, Tomlinson faced scrutiny of his other media roles too. "Tomlinson is also under investigation by the State Department Inspector General’s Office for what he’s done as chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors," reports Geneva Collins. [13] "Meanwhile, two other agencies overseen by the BBG are embroiled in controversies both public and private. The fledgling Arab-language TV channel Alhurra is the subject of three separate government investigations (by the State Department, a House International Relations subcommittee and the Government Accountability Office). And journalists at Voice of America are assailing their BBG-appointed boss for trying to tilt news stories more favorably toward the Bush administration."

In August 2006, the summary of the State Department report was leaked to the public. The alleged transgressions included that Tomlinson "has used his office to run a 'horse racing operation' and that he improperly put a friend on the payroll," reported the New York Times. Also, he "repeatedly used government employees to perform personal errands and that he billed the government for more days of work than the rules permit." [14]

In response, Tomlinson "issued a statement denying that he had done anything improper." [15] He also claimed that "this investigation was inspired by partisan divisions." According to the Washington Post, "The State Department said it turned its report over to the Department of Justice, which has declined to bring criminal charges against Tomlinson. The allegation involving the contractor [his improperly-hired friend], however, is pending in DOJ's civil division." [16]


  • John G. Hubbell, Andrew Jones, Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, P.O.W: A Definitive History of the American Prisoner-Of-War Experience in Vietnam, 1964-1973, Readers Digest, August 1990. ISBN 0883490919

SourceWatch Resources

External links

CPB media releases by or about Tomlinson

Tomlinson statement, resigning from CPB

  • Corporation for Public Broadcasting "Statement of the CPB Board", Media Release, November 3, 2005. (This short release announces Tomlinson's resignation from the CPB Board).

Konz Report and statements about Tomlinson investigation

Other articles & commentary