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Public radio advocates wonder where their board member is

Democrats suggest ex-Sen. Pryor for one of the two CPB Board vacancies

Posted by Current, Nov. 22, 2005
By Steve Behrens

The Senate Democratic leadership has asked the White House to appoint a Senate alumnus, David H. Pryor of Arkansas, to one of the two vacancies on the nine-seat CPB Board.

The former senator is dean of the Clinton School of Public Service at the University of Arkansas, Little Rock.

Pryor would fill a long-vacant seat reserved for a non-Republican under a provision of the Public Broadcasting Act that requires the CPB Board to be bipartisan. The Bush administration refused to nominate an earlier Democratic candidate for the seat, media studies professor Chon Noriega.

The other vacant seat probably would be filled by a Republican. It was held by Kenneth Tomlinson until he resigned from the board Nov. 3 [2005].

It's not clear who will serve as the public radio representative required by the Public Broadcasting Act. Of the nine CPB Board members, the law says:

"one member shall be selected from among individuals who represent the licensees and permittees of public television stations, and one member shall be selected from among individuals who represent the licensees and permittees of public radio stations."

Beth Courtney, president of Louisana Public Broadcasting, an independent, is the public TV rep on the CPB Board.

NPR and other radio advocates have told the Senate Democratic leadership that the radio seat is vacant, according to NPR Vice President Mike Riksen and Station Resource Group's Tom Thomas. The board hasn't had an official radio rep since Ritajean Butterworth 12 years on the board ended in 2004, according to Thomas. Butterworth had served as a lay leader with both a public TV station and a public radio station in her hometown of Seattle.

The Senate minority leader — currently Harry Reid (D-Nev.) — is traditionally responsible for suggesting candidates for non-Republican seats. Reid put forth Pryor's name in July, according to Press Secretary Tessa Hafen.

She said the appointment process generally takes six months. Candidates must be screened before the White House nominates them. Then the Senate ordinarily holds a confirmation hearing, though the White House can shortcut the confirmation step by making a one-year nomination during a congressional recess.

Pryor held elective office for three decades, starting in 1960 as an Arkansas state legislator, stepping up to governor in 1974, U.S. representative in 1966 and U.S. senator in 1978. His son Mark now represents Arkansas in the Senate.

The elder Pryor has taught politics since retiring from the Senate in 1996. He joined the faculty of the University of Arkansas, became director of the Institute of Politics at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government in 1999 before returning to Little Rock as founding dean of the Clinton School of Public Service at the Clinton Presidential Library.

Reid's predecessor as Senate Democratic leader, Tom Daschle (S.D.), tried to put another academic in the CPB Board seat in 2003 but met White House opposition.

Noriega, an authority on Latino media, is an author and professor at the University of California at Los Angeles. He has served on the board of the Independent Television Service and was active in founding the National Association of Latino Independent Producers.

White House personnel aides interviewed Noriega in March 2003 but he said they never told him why he was rejected.

The interview went well, though one question was out of keeping with the tone of the meeting, he told Current.

As Noriega told New Yorker writer Ken Auletta, the White House aide asked him whether it would be appropriate for CPB to intervene if any pubcasting programs were found to be politically biased.

Web page posted Nov. 22, 2005
Copyright 2005 by Current Publishing Committee

RELATED ARTICLES

CPB inspector general reports evidence of Chairman Tomlinson's transgressions.

Reforms proposed in CPB governance.

LINKS

The Public Broadcasting Act, Section 396, says no more than five of the nine CPB Board members may come from one party. See (c)(1). The mandate for public TV and radio reps comes two paragraphs later at (c)(3).

Pryor founded and ran a weekly newspaper in Arkansas but soon stepped into politics. Bio in Wikipedia.

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