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Public Broadcasting Statement on Editorial Independence

The heads of public broadcasting's four largest national organizations agreed on this statement released May 2, 2007, during the dispute over ethnic representation in the Ken Burns/Lynn Novick documentary The War.

Editorial independence is deeply rooted in American values of freedom of speech and freedom of the press, which are protected in the First Amendment to the Constitution.

The Public Broadcasting Act of 1967 reinforces the need to prevent interference with program content.

It requires the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to protect public broadcasting entities from “interference with, or control of, program content or other activities.”

In terms of the Federal government, the Act is particularly emphatic. It prohibits Federal “ . . . direction, supervision, or control over the content or distribution of public telecommunications programs and services...”

Historically, this mandate has been embraced by the public, government officials and others who support the editorial integrity of public broadcasting. Moreover, for First Amendment reasons, the American people are very sensitive to even the appearance of governmental interference with the content of television and radio programming.

Accordingly, any attempt by the government or interest groups to influence content, especially before a program has aired, raises serious Constitutional, statutory and policy concerns.

Forty years ago, Congress in its wisdom sought to protect the editorial integrity of public broadcasting.

As we reaffirm our commitment to the mission of public broadcasting at its 40th anniversary, we urge Congress not to forsake this ideal.

Patricia de Stacy Harrison
President and CEO, CPB

Paula Kerger
President and CEO, PBS

John Lawson
President and CEO, APTS

Ken Stern
Chief Executive Officer, NPR

Web page posted May 7, 2007
Copyright 2007 by Current Publishing Committee

EARLIER ARTICLE

Compromises by Ken Burns and PBS roused Latino advocates' suspicions rather than healing the rift, April 2007.

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