Ken Tomlinson, head of the Corp. for Public Broadcasting, “came under fire” at a Senate panel Monday for secretly monitoring public TV and radio programs, reports Democracy Now!, which aired excerpts:

[Tomlinson paid Fred Mann over $14,000 (not approved by the CPB board) to monitor the political content of public radio and tv.]

SEN. RICHARD DURBIN: … [Mann’s] data riddled with spelling errors was faxed to you from a Hallmark store in downtown Indianapolis. What is [his] background for judging a program like Moyers’s … whether it’s liberal or not?

KENNETH TOMLINSON: Well, he worked for 20 years for the National Journalism Center …

SEN. RICHARD DURBIN: National Journalism Center?

KENNETH TOMLINSON: National Journalism Center.

SEN. RICHARD DURBIN: What is that? I don’t —

KENNETH TOMLINSON: But the point of watching it –

SEN. RICHARD DURBIN: Excuse me, what is the National Journalism Center?

KENNETH TOMLINSON: It’s a center here in Washington that found internships for —

SEN. RICHARD DURBIN: [They’re a] down the middle … moderate centrist group, right and left?

KENNETH TOMLINSON: [I]t qualified for 401(c)(3) support [but is] regarded as right of center. [See below.][I]t’s like Bob Dylan said. [Y]ou don’t need a weather vane to see which way the wind is blowing. [T]he Moyers program was liberal advocacy … We got the statistical basis. More below:

Check out the site for the National Journalism Center, which proudly counts among its graduates Ann Coulter. There’s also a photo montage of journalists — such as Dan Rather — who are not NJC graduates.

Now get your hankies out:

KENNETH TOMLINSON: Well, certainly in terms of Jim Lehrer “NewsHour,” there is no balance problem. That is great journalism. Public Broadcasting has a great reputation in these areas. We had a period of time two years ago where I think we were all asleep at the switch in terms of the Moyers programming. I never wanted to take the Moyers program off the hour.

SEN. RICHARD DURBIN: What do you mean by “asleep at the switch” with the Moyers program? I’d like you to tell me a little bit more.

KENNETH TOMLINSON: Because we should have been aware that on Friday evening, if you presented liberal advocacy journalism for an hour, you really should present conservative advocacy journalism for an hour just for a matter of balance. The law requires balance.

SEN. RICHARD DURBIN: And this was your conclusion based on Mr. Mann’s investigation?

KENNETH TOMLINSON: This was my conclusion when I found that there was a dispute over my view of this program and the general review of this program. I, quite frankly, have run into next to no serious people who regarded the Moyers program as anything other than good liberal advocacy programming.

SEN. RICHARD DURBIN: Will you accept his invitation to take an hour, go on the air on Public Television and to debate that issue?

KENNETH TOMLINSON: Well, absolutely. But, you know —

SEN. RICHARD DURBIN: Oh, you will accept it?

KENNETH TOMLINSON: Absolutely. But, you know, Senator Durbin, Bill Moyers and I both have concluded that this debate is not good for Public Television.

SEN. RICHARD DURBIN: No, it isn’t.

KENNETH TOMLINSON: And, you know, there were things that Moyers said in that speech about me that were most inaccurate and unfair. It saddened me to see that. I could have come back in kind. I chose not to. We’re for Public Broadcasting. We’re for no bias in Public Broadcasting. We don’t want bias on the right, and we don’t want bias on the left.

Democracy Now! also hosted a debate — “Cato vs. PBS: A Debate on Federal Funding of Public Broadcasting” — among David Boaz, Executive Vice-president of the CATO Institute; Bill Reed, President of KCPT in Kansas City, Missouri; and Jeffrey Chester, Executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy.

Cato favors cessation of all funding for public broadcasting.

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