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Citizen groups file FOIA request for CPB documents

Citing the Freedom of Information Act, three citizen watchdog groups petitioned CPB President Pat Harrison Nov. 21, 2005, to release certain documents mentioned in the CPB inspector general's Nov. 15 report on the Tomlinson affair. Included are materials given privately by the IG to the CPB Board and members of Congress, minutes of closed and open CPB Board meetings for three years and communications with the White House and with producers of Tucker Carlson Unfiltered and Journal Editorial Report. Several days earlier the groups had requested similar information without invoking FOIA. The groups also petitioned the Broadcasting Board of Governors, a federal agency chaired by former CPB Chairman Kenneth Tomlinson.

Dear Ms. Harrison:

This is a request under the Freedom of Information Act, 5 USC 552. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, despite claiming to be exempt from FOIA, has previously gone on record as saying it will voluntarily process FOIA requests it receives. Furthermore, CPB, as a government-controlled corporation, is included as a covered agency under section (f)(1) of FOIA under the provisions of the Electronic Freedom of Information Act Amendments of 1996.

Therefore, we request that unredacted copies of the following documents be made available:

Any and all reports, records (paper or electronic), including electronic mail, phone logs, appointment calendars and other material given to Members of Congress related to the CPB inspector general’s investigation related to Report No. EPB503-602 – the “Review of Alleged Actions Violating The Public Broadcasting Act of 1967, as Amended.” These materials are described on page 1 of Report EPB503-602, as released on November 15, 2005;

A separate “investigative report” given to the members of the CPB Board of Directors, which includes “specific evidence indicating possible wrongdoing” as described in page 2 of the Nov. 15, 2005 report;

All information and materials specified in Appendix A of the report released on November 15, 2005, i.e. the Korn/Ferry contract(s) and documents (including, but not limited to, amendments, approvals, invoices, etc.) related to the recruitment of a CPB president; the contract(s) with Fred W. Mann and any other materials related to his provision of services to CPB; contracts with RheemMedia related to the Ombudsman; contracts for William Schultz and Kenneth Bode and all communications between them and the board or board members; contract(s) and all related communications (including, but not limited to, amendments, approvals, invoices, etc.), with Spencer Stuart for its 2005 recruitment work for CPB president; the CPB National Programming Service contract and all correspondence between CPB board members, CPB President, and CPB senior staff related to the funding of “Tucker Carlson Unfiltered;” CPB contract(s) with Dow Jones Inc., including all correspondence and communications by board members, CPB president or senior staff related to the funding, carriage and promotion of “The Journal Editorial Report;”

Minutes for both the public and executive CPB board meetings for the last 36 months, including discussions on: CPB programming including “balance;” the office of Ombudsman; reports about programming given by Michael Pack or his deputy; all discussions related to the recruitment, hire, or termination of CPB presidents Cox and Harrison; and board minutes related to the recent vote of confidence of Ms. Harrison; and

Any and all communications between the White House, CPB presidents Cox and Harrison and members of the board whether by mail, phone log or electronic mail during the last 36 months. These should include communications described in the November 15, 2005 report with the Executive Office of the President or other White House office, such as cited on page 14, 19, 22, 26, and 42.

We are employees of nonprofit organizations who work to increase understanding of the workings of public television. As such, we ask that all fees for this request be waived. Disclosure of the information requested above is in the public interest because it will significantly contribute to public understanding of the operations of CPB, which is funded through the contributions and tax dollars of American citizens. This information will specifically show the degree to which the CPB is accountable and responsive to the American public it is charged to serve.

Given the CPB’s existing precedent and your own willingness to honor FOIA, we look forward to your compliance with this request. We request that you inform us immediately of your receipt of this letter; we also request that you immediately notify us when the documents we have requested are available for retrieval, as they become available. If you must deny access, please notify us immediately of your determination as well as the reasons for making that determination.

Thank you for your consideration.

Chellie Pingree, Common Cause
Jeffrey Chester, Center for Digital Democracy
Josh Silver, Free Press

Activists demand disclosure by CPB

Letter to CPB officials from Common Cause, Free Press, Center for Digital Democracy, Nov. 17, 2005

Chairwoman Cheryl Halpern, Vice Chairwoman Gay Hart Gaines, President Patricia Harrison, Inspector General Kenneth Konz
Corporation for Public Broadcasting

Ms. Halpern, Ms. Gaines, Ms. Harrison and Mr. Konz:

The report issued by the Inspector General earlier this week on political interference at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting excludes key evidence uncovered during the investigation. We ask you to immediately release to the public all reports, documents and evidence given by the Inspector General to CPB Board of Directors or members of Congress.

The report released by Mr. Konz on Nov. 15 cites delivery of a “separate investigative report, along with specific evidence indicating possible wrongdoing, to the Board for their disposition.” It is highly inappropriate for members of the board, CPB senior staff and the Office of Inspector General to keep these materials secret.

Recent press accounts indicate that the Board possesses extensive evidence of potentially inappropriate communications between the CPB and White House officials. According to statements made by Inspector General Konz to Bloomberg News, former CPB Chairman Kenneth Y. Tomlinson discussed programming and hiring matters at the agency with presidential adviser Karl Rove and other White House officials between November 2003 and May 2005.

The Inspector General’s report describes “e-mails between the former Chairman and staff in the Executive Office of the President that, while cryptic in nature … [give] the appearance that the former Chairman was strongly motivated by political considerations in filling the President/CEO position."

We remain deeply concerned about possible interference by the White House in programming and hiring decisions at the CPB — and whether any further laws may have been violated.

The public’s right to know transcends the politically convenient “confidentiality agreements” Ms. Harrison claims prevent release of the documents. The public must be
allowed to judge for itself the importance the correspondence between the CPB and top Bush administration officials or any other evidence shared privately with the board.

By withholding information, you are not serving the mission of public broadcasting.

The American people must be told the full story of what transpired at the CPB.

Sincerely,

Chellie Pingree, President, Common Cause
Josh Silver, Executive Director, Free Press
Jeff Chester, Executive Director, Center for Digital Democracy

FOIA request to U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors

Letter from Common Cause, Free Press and Center for Digital Democracy to Martha Diaz Ortiz, FOIA/Privacy Act Officer, U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors, Nov. 22, 2005.

Dear Ms. Diaz:

The undersigned organization representatives request unredacted copies of the following documents under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act, 5 USC 552:

Any and all reports, records (paper or electronic), including electronic mail, phone logs and appointment calendars of Broadcasting Board of Governors Chairman Kenneth Y. Tomlinson with any reference to his role or work as chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) to include but not be limited to any and all communications on this topic with White House personnel, the Executive Office of the President, current and former CPB staff or contract personnel, and any other individual or organization that communicated with Tomlinson regarding his work associated with CPB in the past 36 months.

We are employees of nonprofit organizations who work to increase understanding of the workings of U.S.-funded public broadcasting organizations. As such, we ask that all fees for this request be waived. Disclosure of the information requested above is in the public interest because it will significantly contribute to public understanding of the operations of the Broadcasting Board of Governors. This information will specifically show the degree to which the BBG is accountable and responsive to the American public it is charged to serve.

We request that you inform us immediately of your receipt of this letter; we also request that you immediately notify us when the documents we have requested are available for retrieval, as they become available. If you must deny access, please notify us immediately of your determination as well as the reasons for making that determination.

Thank you for your consideration. Sincerely,

Chellie Pingree, President, Common Cause
Josh Silver, Executive Director, Free Press
Jeff Chester, Executive Director, Center for Digital Democracy


Public Broadcasting PolicyBase
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Posted Nov. 21, 2005
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