Public Media Policybase

CPB charters a single ombudsman

CPB’s website, as of February 2013, carries this document, “Revised February 1, 2011,” redefining the assignment of its ombudsman. Kenneth Tomlinson, past chair of the CPB Board, had prompted controversy by hiring two ombudsmen in April 2005.

Charter Establishing the CPB Office of the Ombudsman

The founders of public broadcasting saw a clear need for a “system-wide process of exerting upward pressure on standards of taste and performance.” (The 1967 Carnegie Commission Report, p.36) In addition, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) was expected to become the “center of leadership” with a “primary mission…to extend and improve . . . programming.” (The 1967 Carnegie Commission Report, p. 40 and p. 5) Consistent with those goals, in April 2005 the CPB Board of Directors (Board) established the Office of the Ombudsman as an independent office with responsibility to inform its Board and its President on issues as described in this Charter.

This Charter establishes the role for one individual to serve as the CPB Ombudsman. The Ombudsman shall serve at the pleasure of the Board for a term of three years which the Board may, in its sole discretion, choose to renew. The person selected will be recognized for his or her experience within the news media and/or public broadcasting, and for a demonstrated capacity to write and communicate about issues of journalistic integrity, accuracy, transparency, balance and objectivity as they relate to public broadcasting.

The Ombudsman will receive comments from the general public, government officials and individuals within the public broadcasting system itself regarding programming aired on CPB-supported television and radio stations. The Ombudsman will encourage public dialogue aimed at achieving high standards of excellence in public broadcasting, and shall annually prepare a written review of CPB-funded programming for its objectivity, balance, fairness, accuracy and transparency.

The Ombudsman shall be free to respond to any comments received and to seek answers to questions and concerns raised about programming from sources within and outside the public broadcasting system. The Ombudsman shall review, address and report on all issues concerning public broadcasting programming independent of any influence from CPB management, the Board, or other external sources. The Ombudsman’s function, performance and behavior shall be governed solely by the Ombudsman’s integrity and professional experience, and by written operational guidelines which shall be developed in consultation with the Ombudsman, approved by the Board, and shall be generally consistent with standards adopted by the United States Ombudsman Association.

The Ombudsman shall refrain from partisan and political activities and from any employment and business relationships that may create a conflict of interests or compromise the Ombudsman’s appearance of fairness and impartiality. In addition, the Ombudsman shall adhere to CPB’s Code of Ethics and Business Conduct for Employees.

In carrying out its role, the Office of the Ombudsman will confine its programming comments to content that has been broadcast to the public on-air or on-line, and shall not engage in pre-broadcast commentary. The Ombudsman may also comment on the responsibilities of the Office of the Ombudsman and may submit such comments to the President or the Board, either publicly or privately. In every case, the Office of the Ombudsman will initiate its own reports and shall have the sole responsibility for all decisions to review programming and issue reports.

CPB Code of Ethics and Business Conduct PDF

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