A major part of OTP’s activity in 1971 involved the development of a long-term financing bill for CPB. However, because of disagreements with CPB over details of the draft “Public Telecommunications Financing Act of 1971″ and the Administration’s displeasure with public broadcasting’s news and public affairs programming, the Administration did not submit a CPB funding bill to Congress that year.
On April 13, Flanigan and Whitehead, now OTP Director, met in Flanigan’s office with CPB Directors Cole and Wrather, both of whom had been appointed to the Corporation Board by President Nixon. The meeting was an outgrowth of Flanigan’s and Whitehead’s correspondence with Cole, dating from November 9, 1970, when Flanigan wrote to Cole complaining about the NET documentary “Banks and the Poor.” On March 15, Flanigan sent Whitehead a memo which said:
Regarding the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, we discussed having a meeting of our directors to determine where we go from here with the Corporation. Nothing having happened on this, I believe we should undertake that activity immediately. If you agree, I propose to ask Al Cole, Jack Rather [sic], and our other friends that we have put on that Board to come to the White House and sit down to discuss the future of the control of the Board and the management with us. After that, we can determine the validity of the desirability of meeting with the President.
Following the April 13 meeting, Whitehead asked OTP General Counsel Scalia to draft a letter to CPB Chairman Pace, outlining points to be discussed at a subsequent meeting with selected CPB Board members. Pace had previously proposed that the President meet with the entire CPB Board.
On May 20, Whitehead wrote Pace, suggesting that, prior to a meeting with the President, he [Whitehead] “get together with a few selected members of the Board, to discuss the details of the meeting with the President, the range of subjects which should be covered, and other matters of mutual concern.”
Whitehead met with Pace, Cole, and Wrather on June 3. On June 4, Scalia drafted for Whitehead a “Memorandum to the President,” outlining reasons for long-term financing for CPB. The memo, classified “CONFIDENTIAL,” noted that the Administration’s 1972 Budget said that “legislation will be proposed to provide an improved financing arrangement for CPB.” Scalia pointed out that the legislation had been promised for several months and that an apparent change of heart at this point would be alleged to be politically motivated.” Citing several other reasons for submitting a financing proposal, the memo concluded:
“The best possibility for White House influence over the Corporation is through the Presidential appointees to the Board of Directors. These tend to be independent people, however, and failure to submit the previously announced legislation might antagonize them.”
Flanigan met with CPB Director Wrather on June 14.
On June 16, President Nixon nominated Zelma George to the CPB Board.
On June 18, a more detailed “Memorandum for the President” was drafted for Flanigan. It laid out other options regarding CPB. Among the items discussed was the CPB Board:
We appointed Jack Wrather, Tom Moore, and Jock Whitney to the CPB Board last year and reappointed Saul Haas and Frank Schooley due to Congressional pressure. We have just announced the appointment of Zelma George to the Board to fill a term which expires next Spring. Four more vacancies will also be filled at that time, giving us clear control of the Board.
The memo also reminded the President of the meeting he had had with Pace and Cole in October 1969:
Frank Pace and Al Cole met with you in 1969 and agreed to reduce CPB funding of NET substantially. While some alteration has taken place, there is room for substantially more.
It went on to say:
We have discussed with Jack Wrather the possibility of substituting him for Frank Pace as Chairman of the CPB Board. Wrather has replied that he does not have the time and knows of no person more suitable than Pace — who, although a Democrat, is generally conservative and aware of the need to keep the Corporation out of political controversy.
The memo then presented two options and three recommendations with respect to CPB:
(1) Elimination of CPB
This alternative would be politically difficult in view of the strong educational support and the generally favorable public image CPB has developed.
(2) Shaping the Corporation
Probably no amount of restructuring will entirely eliminate the tendency of the Corporation to support liberal causes. On the other hand, this Administration does have an opportunity to establish, by legislation and otherwise, structures and counterbalances which will restrain this tendency in future years and which, as a political matter, it will be difficult for other administrations to alter. It is in this direction that we have thus far been proceeding.
RECOMMENDATIONS ([Charles] Colson concurs)
(1) Obtain an agreement from Pace to replace Macy with a professional, apolitical President of our choosing as soon as discretion permits.
(2) Make clear to Pace that CPB must further reduce its funding of NET, in order to accelerate the shrinking of that organization’s influence in the public television field.
(3) Proceed with the legislative package prepared by OTP after Pace has agreed to these changes. This increases the amount of CPB funding but at the same time reduces its influence over social thought, by excluding it from classroom programming and by increasing the independence of local stations which are generally more conservative in outlook.
On June 22, Wrather wrote a letter to Flanigan following up on their June 14 meeting in Flanigan’s office. In his letter, Wrather said:
I feel very strongly that this is not the time to try to make quick decisions and changes…the propitious time to make a move, if such is desired, might be at a later date, coincident with the new appointments in early ’72…. The selection of any replacement is pretty critical and I feel should be given enough time to really scout the entire field of possibilities….
On July 9, Whitehead met with Flanigan and Colson to discuss an “Action Memorandum” regarding CPB. The proposed action was premised upon the assumption that “entire elimination of Federal support of public television is politically impossible” and, in any case, “could easily be undone by a subsequent Administration.” Thus, redirecting Federal support “so as to create a structure which will be dominated by those elements in the public television field which are generally most congenial—namely, the local stations,” was viewed as the “most effective course of action.”
The memo laid out a course of action which included having the President meet with Cole and Wrather to obtain their agreement in exchange for Administration support of a new funding bill, to reduce CPB funding of NET “to a near-zero level,” and to “replace John Macy as soon as practicable with a non-political professional.”
The memo cautioned that pains must be taken “to avoid the appearance of hostility to public broadcasting, both because it is a sacred cow in many quarters and because the President’s Opponents are already trying to tar him with antagonism towards ‘free and independent’ media.”
The following day Scalia prepared a breakdown of CPB expenditures for Colson and Flanigan. Scalia’s breakdown showed how Federal funds might be diverted from CPB station support and networking activities to direct Federal station support.
On July 15 OTP Counsel Henry Goldberg prepared a memorandum for Whitehead and Scalia “intended to offer a policy rationale for accomplishing the objectives explicit and implicit in the July 9 ‘Action Memorandum’ and the July 10 memorandum concerning CPB….” Goldberg’s memo stressed the concept of local station control of public broadcasting.
The local control rationale was used in a “Memorandum for the President” from Flanigan which Scalia drafted on August 9:
The foundation of the public broadcasting network is the local stations. Most of these were created and are supported by state funds, and almost all carry classroom programming during school hours. These stations generally reflect the Philosophical outlook of the areas which they serve, and, as a group, are not dominated by the liberal establishment of the Northeast.
The memo then detailed the objectives of Administration policy toward public broadcasting:
We believe that the principal objective of our policy toward public broadcasting should be to modify the structure of the system so as to eliminate the dominant position of CPB. An attempt to cut back public broadcasting as a whole would be doomed to failure because of the strong support that medium receives, not only from education interests, minority groups and liberals, but also from Congressmen whose districts contain stations which contribute to local education. Moreover, a mere reduction of funding for all public broadcasting would be ineffective in the long run since the level could easily be raised by a later administration. We are confronted with a long range problem of significant social consequences — that is, the development of a government-funded broadcast system similar to the BBC. There are three ways of attempting to prevent such a development:
1. Attempt to reduce drastically the Federal support for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and thereby all public broadcasting, including educational broadcasting, as well as public affairs programming;
2. Attempt to selectively reduce the public affairs emphasis of CPB; or
3. Alter the basic structure of the public broadcasting and the funding arrangements.
In view of the widespread support for many aspects of public broadcasting outside of public affairs programming, such as Sesame Street, Forsythe [sic] Saga, high school equivalency programs, etc., we think it would be unwise to attempt an across-the-board cut in CPB funding; not only would the political repercussions be undesirable but it would be highly unlikely that we could achieve this result politically. Any significant effort to reduce CPB effort of public affairs programming would run into resistance from commercial broadcasters who would just as soon leave this to public television and would raise a hue and cry about government control, etc. While it would be more effective than the first course of action, we think that it can be done more effectively if combined with the third alternative. The most fruitful course of action in achieving your objectives therefore seems to be a restructuring of CPB in its relationship to the local stations and a careful structuring of long-term financing arrangements to limit centralized control of public broadcasting which is certain to be highly liberal in its stance, and in conjunction make appropriate changes in the management of CPB through our friends on the Board of Directors.
Scalia redrafted his “Memorandum For The President” on August 17.
On September 7, Wrather conveyed to Whitehead information about Bill Moyers and Martin Agronsky which Wrather had asked Macy to provide. Wrather’s transmittal memo to Whitehead characterized the information as “confidential.”
The Scalia memos of August 9 and 17 were reworked by Whitehead, and a revised draft “Memorandum For The President” was prepared September 23. One of the courses of action the memo recommended was to induce CPB to change its orientation and emphasis on public affairs programming.” The memo said:
Our friends on the CPB Board of Directors, notably Jack Wrather, Al Cole, and Tom Moore, favor this approach and are working with limited success toward this end. At a minimum, replacement of Frank Pace as Chairman and John Macy as President would be necessary, and more detailed White House intervention would probably be required to keep a rein on the full-time CPB and PBS staffs….
Later that day, Jon M. Huntsman, Staff Secretary, informed Flanigan that the President wanted all funds for public broadcasting cut. Huntsman’s “CONFIDENTIAL, EYES ONLY,” memorandum, with copies to Haldeman and Alex Butterfield, said:
The following report appeared in the September 23, 1971, News Summary:
Robert MacNeil and Sander Vanocur will anchor a weekly political program on Public Broadcasting in ’72. It will “try to reverse the usual focus of political reporting from the politician down to the people.” Said Vanocur: “we have taken an institutional view of politics in the past…in a sense will be doing psychological reporting.” (We can hardly wait.)… Senator Ervin’s Constitutional Rights Subcommittee will begin next week exploring the growing deterioration in relations between the press and the government.
The above report greatly disturbed the President who considered this the last straw. It was requested that all funds for Public Broadcasting be cut immediately. You should work this out so that the House Appropriations Committee gets the word.
On September 28, Whitehead drafted a response to the President’s request that “all funds for Public Broadcasting be cut immediately.” Whitehead’s memo began:
We have identified several options for dealing with the public affairs programming of public broadcasting. In the short run, there does not appear to be any way to cut off Federal funds. Federal funds for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) for FY 1972 were apportioned by 0MB in July and a check for $30 million was transferred to the Corporation in August. These funds remain available to the Corporation until expended, outside the control of the Executive Branch by statute. The $5 million remaining to be apportioned is to match non-Federal contributions and would not normally be apportioned until late in the fiscal year. Our efforts, therefore, must be directed to legislative action for FY 1973 and beyond.
Whitehead advised the President that it would be hard to cut back funds for public affairs programming without cutting back funds for educational and cultural programming as well.
The September 28 memorandum was redrafted September 30, then redrafted again October 4. The memo described the current situation and laid out four major options:
Option 1: Negotiate a compromise financing bill that would increase Federal funds for public broadcasting, but would circumscribe the power of CPB by increasing the autonomy of the local stations.Option 2: Seek legislation to cut CPB funds drastically and to exclude it from public affairs programming.
Option 3: Seek legislation to provide a new structure for Federal funding of only educational and cultural programming at the national level and for direct grants to local educational stations.
Option 4: Same as (3), but also seek revision of tax laws to prohibit foundations from supporting news and political commentary programming, in the same way they are prohibited from lobbying.
Whitehead then made the following recommendation:
Recommendation: The first option does little but avoid controversy and the second is likely to accomplish little but controversy. Options (3) and (4) would have lasting and constructive effect, though both would raise a loud Liberal howl. Only Option (4) stands a chance of achieving all of our goals. I recommend you approve Option (4) if you are willing to face the controversy and that we open the attack in my address to the annual convention of the local stations October 20.
On October 5, Whitehead sent the memo to Ehrlichman, Haldeman, Garment, and Colson, asking each for comments.
The next day he sent a slightly different version of the memo to presidential Counsellor Robert Finch, 0MB Director George Shultz, Press Secretary Ron Ziegler, and Communications Director Klein. He asked each of them for comments as well.
Finch and Garment responded to Whitehead right away, recommending Option 3; Klein responded, recommending Option 1. Ehrlichman pointed that all the options involved legislation and said he doubted whether the legislature route was the best way to go. Instead Ehrlichman suggested:
The best alternative would be to take over the management and thereby determine what management decisions are going to be made. Obviously, this is an uphill fight but seems to me to be the only feasible path to accomplish your ends. If you tell me that you can’t take over the management, then I think this is just a situation that can’t be solved. If you have a 50-50 chance of making a fight and taking over the management, then I think it might be worth the try and some very bright guy like Malek ought to be put in charge of bringing it off.
Colson too supported Option 3 but recommended that Option 3 state by how much public broadcasting funding would be increased.
In conveying his views to Flanigan and Whitehead, Colson also said, “I don’t think you need to put things quite so explicitly in the first paragraph. This is a serious mistake for whatever records this piece of paper might ultimately end up in or, perish the thought, should it get Out.”
The paragraph referred to read:
You have expressed serious concern regarding Vanocur/MacNeil and the National Public Affairs Center for Television (NPACT) funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and Ford Foundation. (Liz Drew will be funded by CPB through NPACT; the Moyers and Agronsky shows do not receive CPB funds, although the public television network which carries them to the local stations is funded entirely by CPB.) This comes at a time when we need some firm decisions on our posture toward the financing and structure of public broadcasting.
On October 12, Scalia advised Whitehead that Klein had changed his recommendation from Option 1 to Option 3.
The Memorandum for the President was again revised on October 12 and 15. The October 15 draft dropped Option 4, which called for a revision of the tax laws. The other three options were presented in a little more detail than in the October 4 draft, with the following prefatory comments:
The Problem: To achieve your goals, with some lasting impact, we must first replace the current CPB management and assure its control by the Board, and second, find new arrangements for funding public television. Neither step will be easy, and both will require us to take some political heat. First, controlling the management of CPB is difficult because the Public Broadcasting Act purposely structured it to minimize executive branch influence. CPB is theoretically governed by an independent Board, with members appointed to fixed terms with Senate confirmation. In fact, however, it is the full-time management, headed by John Macy, that really runs CPB and controls the money. The part-time Board is only marginally effective, in part because all the members are convinced CPB is a great thing.
Second, it is difficult to control CPB by cutting back their funds because they have all the discretion on how funds are disbursed. Public affairs programming is not a large part of their activity, and there is wide public and Congressional support for the popular “Sesame Street,” drug abuse shows used in high schools, and the like. A cut in CPB funding cannot be targeted specifically at public affairs programs, and would force a cutback in these other areas. It would also cause a reduction in support for local educational TV stations (in 223 Congressional districts), since that also goes through CPB.
This Fiscal Year: OMB thinks CPB appropriations are mandatory spending over which we have no legal control. Even if we are willing to make a test of OMB’s authority to withhold funds, there is no effective way to cut funds substantially for this fiscal year, since $30 million of the $35 million appropriation has already been disbursed. Furthermore, CPB has already made block grants to independent programming organizations which have in turn already funded the objectionable programs. Thus, there is no way to control CPB’s disbursement of its funds this year either. The best we can do is to reduce these programs after June 30, by taking over the Board.
Controlling the Board: We have now appointed eight of the fifteen Board members, but because of various political pressures at the time, only four or five can be counted on to help us replace CPB management and redirect the programming emphasis. We can take over the Board next April when you have five appointments to make. All your advisers agree that Fred Malek should start now to find five tough-minded appointees who will vote with us to fire John Macy and his top staff and replace them with suitable people. Malice [typo?] agreed to do this; we will then attempt to get these appointees by Senators Magnuson and Pastore, both of whom have a strong affection for CPB.
Funding Alternatives: There has been pressure since CPB was established for greatly increased funding under “permanent” financing; and your last budget promised a plan for “improved” financing arrangements. The Congress is calling for an Administration plan this session. We have to adopt some legislative posture on funding arrangements.
The memo then presented the three options previously discussed.
Discussions about CPB were also taking place in other quarters of the White House at this time. An October 15 memo from Rose to Larry Higby of Haldeman’s staff made a number of observations:
In spite of what it may seem, no one participating in this exercise has ever been unclear as to the President’s basic objective: to get the left-wing commentators who are cutting us up off public television at once, indeed yesterday if possible. …We need eight loyalists to control the present CPB Board and fire the current staff who make the grants. There is no way to get this number of votes until our five new appointments next April. …
We should be aware, however, that these appointees must be confirmed and therefore go through Senators Magnuson and Pastore. Last Spring Senator Magnuson forced us to reappoint a known left-winger over the adamant opposition of John Ehrlichman as the price of confirming four other people. It is difficult to think that the Spring of 1972 will be any different. …
For the longer term the essential thing is to get CPB Out of the business of financing public affairs programming. One obvious way would be to abolish CPB if we could do it. A substantial majority of those who know anything about it believe there is simply no way. Indeed it is believed Congress would ram the money for CPB through over our protests. Thus the Whitehead memo proposes using increased funding of local public tv stations directly as the carrot to buy passage of a prohibition against CPB funding of public affairs programs. …
Even if we go the Whitehead route and succeed in cutting off federal funds for liberal hour on public tv, no doubt Mac Bundy will be ready with Ford Foundation money to take up the slack. This is another battle for which I and a number of others would be eager to draft legislation if it is desired. …
Those are the unpleasant facts. Believe me, I do not enjoy watching these left-wingers any more than you do, but I think it is essential that we know the maximum that can be done and do it rather than spinning our wheels proposing the impossible. …
During the time these discussions were taking place, CPB Director Wrather was providing Whitehead with more information which Wrather asked be kept “confidential.”
On October 4, Wrather sent Whitehead material he had obtained from Macy about NPACT and the appointment of MacNeil and Vanocur as Senior Correspondents for the Center
On October 12, he sent Whitehead a memo Macy had prepared for the CPB Board concerning Paul Jacobs’ Great American Dream Machine segment on FBI informants.
Also during this period, Macy extended an invitation to the White House to informally suggest names for the 15-member Board which CPB and NET were appointing to run NPACT. Matt Coffey of Macy’s staff called Garment with the invitation.
In a October 13 memo to Whitehead and Flanigan, Garment said, “In view of Tom’s [Whitehead] pending proposal to the President, we may decide not even to respond to Coffey’s invitation…My recommendation would be to do so and to get some strong people in there (along the lines of Charlie Crutchfield).
Scalia cautioned Whitehead that this was “a mousetrap by Macy.” Whitehead then recommended to Flanigan:
That we express our preferences through someone like Jack Wrather rather than directly to Macy. If we were to suggest names directly, it would imply tacit approval and they would have the opportunity at any future time to say that we have participated to the extent of suggesting directors. Unless you have any objections, I will raise this with Malek and try to get a few names that we can ask Jack Wrather to pass along without any attribution to us.
On October 20, Whitehead sent Flanigan “still one more revision” of the “Memorandum for the President.” This time the memorandum included an option Congressman Springer had suggested, making no legislative proposal at all and “forcing CPB into a one-year extension where their funds could be kept at or near the current $35 million.” Whitehead told Flanigan that “Springer’s option never has appealed to me and…seems worse than a fall back from an attempt to implement our reforms….
Attached to the October 20 memo was a summary of “Current Public Broadcasting Activities in Public Affairs and ‘Commentary’ Programming.”
October 20 was also the day Whitehead opened his public attack on public broadcasting. (Whitehead had recommended launching the attack in his October 4 “Memorandum for the President.”) Addressing the 47th Annual Convention of NAEB in Miami, Whitehead said:
I honestly don’t know what group I’m addressing. I don’t know if it’s really the 47th Annual Convention of NAEB or the first annual meeting of PBS affiliates. What’s your status? To us there is evidence that you are becoming affiliates of a centralized, nationalized network. …On a national basis, PBS says that some 40 percent of its programming is devoted to public affairs. You’re centralizing your public affairs programs in the National Public Affairs Center in Washington, because someone thinks autonomy in regional centers leads to wasteful overlap and duplication. Instead of aiming for “overprogramming” so local stations can select among the programs produced and presented in an atmosphere of diversity, the system chooses central control for “efficient” long-range planning and so-called “coordination” of news and public affairs — coordinated by people with essentially similar outlooks.
On November 4, NPACT General Manager Jim Karayn wrote Whitehead “in the hope of eliminating some apparent misconceptions about NPACT’s role within public television and its programming plans that were indicated by your references to us in your October 20 NAEB speech.”
In his letter, Karayn explained that “NPACT programming is not dictated by one person or a small group of individuals with a particular philosophical viewpoint or journalistic background.”
On November 9, Whitehead met with CPB and Pace. Two days later, he met with CPB Director Moore.
On November 15, Whitehead revised his October 20 Memorandum and sent it to Haldeman to be given to the President. The memo recommended that several steps be taken to eliminate “slanted programming”:
1. Induce the programmers themselves to keep some balance, under pressure of criticism from our friends on the CPB Board and among the general public. Peter Flanigan and I will meet soon with our loyal Board members to emphasize the serious concern.
2. Replace Frank Pace and John Macy. We would try to do this immediately by telling them they have lost the confidence of the Administration and thereby have become obstacles to the progress of public television; our loyal friends on the CPB Board can help in this appeal. If this is not successful, we would have them voted out next year after getting firm control of the Board. Fred Malek will begin recruiting for their replacements as soon as your approval for this move is gained.
3. Take more effective control of the CPB Board. Although we have now appointed eight of the fifteen members, because of political pressures at the time of appointment, only four or five can be counted on to help us. We can take more effective control over the Board next April when you have five appointments to make. This will enable us to reduce drastically the CPB funding of the offensive commentators effective next summer.
4. Build more actively the public case against CPB programming bias through speeches by friends in the Congress, selected columns, and my speeches.
But even with “a loyal Board and top management at CPB” there were limits, Whitehead said, “to the change that is possible within the current structure of the Public Broadcasting Act”:
‘We stand to gain substantially from an increase in the relative power of the local stations,’ Whitehead advised. ‘They are generally less liberal, and more concerned with education than with controversial national affairs.’
No matter how firm our control of CPB management, public television at the national level will always attract liberal and far-left producers, writers, and commentators. We cannot get the Congress to eliminate CPB, to reduce funds for public television, or to exclude CPB from public affairs programming. But we can reform the structure of public broadcasting to eliminate its worst features. There is, and has always been, a deep division within public broadcasting over the extent of national control versus local station control. Many local stations resent the dominance of CPB and NET. This provides an opportunity to further our philosophical and political objectives for public broadcasting without appearing to be politically motivated.
We stand to gain substantially from an increase in the relative power of the local stations. They are generally less liberal, and more concerned with education than with controversial national affairs. Further, a decentralized system would have far less influence and be far less attractive to social activists.
Therefore, we should immediately seek legislation to: (a) remove CPB from the business of networking; (b) make a drastic cut in CPB’s budget; and (c) initiate direct Federal operating support for local stations on a matching basis.
Whitehead said, “the key to the success of this approach is to provide more Federal funding to the local stations than they can get from CPB,” and estimated “local stations’ support for our proposals could be bought for about $30 million.”
On November 22, Alvin Snyder of Klein’s staff sent Flanigan a memo containing “several examples of bias to help document our case against Frank Pace and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.”
Snyder’s memo described Vanocur and MacNeil as “network rejects.”
“Vanocur’s bias is well documented,” Snyder’s memo continued:
On the David Frost Show last July he said the President has ‘ consistently lied’ to the American people. Vanocur said he is a bit ashamed of his role as a transmission belt for those lies. The government, claimed Mr. Vanocur, has used classification to cover ‘every kind of sin, arrogance and obscenity — and there is none greater than Vietnam.’ …Last May Vanocur told the Chicago Tribune that extending the war into Laos and Cambodia was ‘stupidity.’ Said Vanocur: ‘Every time you put a President on the air about Vietnam…we have very little chance to say, “it’s hogwash,” or “they’re lying to you.
The memo cited a number of other examples of “bias,” including a “scathing attack” by Bill Moyers “on our efforts to end the Vietnam war.”
On November 24, Whitehead sent Haldeman a memo describing “what we are doing behind the scenes on the Vanocur/MacNeil situation”:
After Vanocur and MacNeil were announced in late September, we planted with the trade press the idea that their obvious liberal bias would reflect adversely on public television. We encouraged other trade journals and the general press to focus attention on the Vanocur appointment. Public television stations throughout the country were unhappy that once again they were being given programs from Washington and New York without participating in the decisions. My speech criticizing the increasing centralization of public television received wide coverage and has widened the credibility gap between the local stations and CPB. It also has brought more attention to the acknowledged liberal bias of CPB and NPACT. We then began to encourage speculation about Vanocur’s and MacNeil’s salaries. As a result of the increasing public controversy, several reporters and Congressman Lionel Van Deerlin asked CPB to release the salaries. Macy refused, but after pressure increased, quietly made it known that Vanocur receives a salary of $85,000 a year and Robert MacNeil $65,000.
We plan to do two things in the next few weeks to continue to call attention to balance on public television, especially NPACT. We will quietly solicit critical articles regarding Vanocur’s salary coming from public funds (larger than than of the Vice President, the Chief Justice, and the Cabinet) and his obvious bias. We will quietly encourage station managers throughout the country to put pressure on NPACT and CPB to put balance in their programming or risk the possibility of local stations not carrying these programs. Our credibility on funding with the local stations is essential to this effort.
On December 1, Peter Flanigan wrote Haldeman and told him “our alternatives with respect to Public Broadcasting are all bad.” After reviewing the options of cutting CPB’s budget below the current level and of attempting to by-pass CPB by giving funds directly to the local stations, Flanigan said there was a third option which had been suggested by Moore, “one of our few strong Board members.”
Flanigan said Moore recommended the following:
A. At the December 16th meeting of the Board he will undertake to have a Board resolution passed removing CPB from news and news analysis and commentary.
B. At the end of December, he will be in a position to assure the Administration that, at its January meeting, the CPB Board will pass a resolution removing CPB from public affairs programming. Both of these resolutions will also remove PBS (Public Broadcasting Service which is the networking arm of CPB) from carrying any such programs even if produced privately.
C. In mid-January (based on the above commitment and assurance, and the following commitment regarding Macy), the Administration will send to the Congress a two-year financing bill for CPB proposing $45,000,000 in FY 73 and $55,000,000 in ’74.
D. At the January meeting of CPB the Board will pass the resolution removing CPB and PBS from public affairs programming and networking.
E. In February or March Macy will be removed as President of CPB.
F. After the five new Presidential appointees to the Board in April, a new Chairman will be appointed.
This approach, based on Moore’s commitment to produce the above results, was supported by Colson, Garment, Shakespeare, Whitehead, and himself, Flanigan said.
On December 2, Whitehead sent a memo to Flanigan saying that while he agreed with Moore’s recommendation, he continued to think that the long-run benefits of attempting to by-pass CPB and give funds directly to the local stations are significant, “since many of the local stations are less liberal, far less interested in public affairs, and, in any event cannot afford the talent or attract the attention to do anywhere near the damage of CPB.”
Whitehead said, however, that he was “willing to postpone this approach to see whether we can obtain instead the news and public affairs commitment that Tom Moore says he can deliver.”
On December 7, Flanigan notified Whitehead, Garment, Colson, Shakespeare and Malek that “the President has approved Option III, that is the Tom Moore option, with regard to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.”
On December 22 Flanigan sent Whitehead a copy of minutes of the December 15-16 CPB Executive Committee meeting.
According to the minutes, the Executive Committee asked CPB management:
[to] devise a plan which will assure insofar as possible the balanced and objective presentation of public affairs. In this regard, the Committee generally agreed that at this juncture programs involving news analysis and political commentary have a low funding priority and present activity in that area should be phased out on the basis of a sound plan to be developed by management.
On December 22, Whitehead sent a memo to Richard Cook, Deputy Assistant to the President, in which he described the present situation on the Hill as follows:
On the whole, Congressional attitudes do not now seem favorable towards CPB. This can be attributed to several factors: (1) dissatisfaction with slanted and irresponsible public affairs programs, (2) CPB’s extensive advertising in newspapers and on network primetime to build audience and ratings, and (3) the high salaries being paid to Macy, Vanocur, MacNeil, Moyers, and others. I began to be publicly critical of CPB in my October speech to the National Association of Educational Broadcasters; since then, my Office has consistently been calling attention to these problems in the press and on the Hill.
On December 23, Scalia sent Whitehead a memorandum about a matter Scalia considered “urgent”:
I have attached an analysis of the current plan being considered for the CPB Board of Directors.. After giving it a good deal of thought, I have concluded that the most likely eventuality is that the plan will fail and the Administration’s role will become public knowledge. Naturally, this is the worst possible development, but its likelihood argues for exceptional discretion and caution on our part. Since my initial recommendation to abandon this plan has been rejected, at the very least I urge you to point out to the White House staff all of the risks and difficulties outlined in the attached analysis. If, in the end, you have to go along with this approach, your acquiescence should be given reluctantly. I do not think it is an overstatement to say that OTP’s future depends on how you handle this matter. The more you can do to dissociate yourself from this particular “initiative,” the more likely it becomes that OTP will survive.
Attached to Scalia’s “EYES ONLY” memo was his analysis of the Administration’s plan for CPB.
On December 23, Whitehead drafted a letter from Flanigan to Congressman Springer. The letter noted that the CPB Board was to vote at its January 21 meeting on the future of CPB involvement in funding public affairs programming. The letter said that Schooley, the Board member whom Springer had urged be reappointed, opposed any limitation on the areas of CPB programming. Whitehead asked Springer if he could talk to Schooley “and try to convince him how he should change his position.”
Copyright 1979 American University