The CPB Board 3: Why PBS Is Moving to the Right


Having covered the two chief officers, we now move on to the members, and if you think the pattern is going to change, think again.

Member: WARREN BELL (Appointed by Bush)

Bell is a Burbanker, having spent most of his life in television. Until recently – when the show was canceled – he was executive producer of According to Jim, a successful ABC sit-com that was in the running for least funny network comedy series along with George Lopez, and writer/producer of shows like Ellen and Coach, which were much better.

But none of that is why he’s on the CPB Board. This is:

Additionally, in 2005, Mr. Bell began writing humorous columns for National Review Online, as well as contributing to NRO’s daily group blog, “The Corner.”

And this – especially this:

Mr. Bell has been involved with many civic organizations, including the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, the Jewish Federation, and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

Well, what d’ya know? The FDD again, this time allied with AIPAC, the single most powerful hardline, hard-right, pro-Israel lobbying organization in the country. Amanda at Think Progress was under no illusions at the time of his appointment as to what it was all about.

The CPB is designed to provide a buffer between independent public broadcast networks and partisan politics.

But instead of being a nonpartisan advocate of public broadcasting, Bell will likely be another advocate of Bush’s agenda. (Under Bush, the CPB has steadily pushed right-wing priorities, trying to put a conservative slant on programming.)

In his writings for the National Review, Bell has been clear about his agenda:

“I could reach across the aisle and hug Nancy Pelosi, and I would, except this is a new shirt, and that sort of thing leaves a stain.” [5/11/05]

“I am thoroughly conservative in ways that strike horror into the hearts of my Hollywood colleagues. I support a woman’s right to choose what movie we should see, but not that other one.” [5/11/05]

“I have met President Bush twice. I have no powerful political connections — both times were the result of sizable checks written by me to support his campaign.” [3/31/05]

Looks like to get to Sesame Street, you have to take a turn to the right.

Looks like. Those quotes are what the right-wing considers “humorous”, apparently – more evidence if you needed it that conservatives think corruption, abortion, and hints that Democrats are diseased is the essence of slap-your-thigh “humor”.

And btw, tv is centered in Burbank, NOT Hollywood. That’s movies. It would seem Mr Bell is indulging in a little wishful-thinking and glamorizing o’ hisse’f.

Member: CHRIS BOSKIN (Appointed by Bush)

Boskin is our first non-political hack. She appears to have no political background whatsoever. By the same token, she has no educational background, either. What Boskin is, is a commercial media consultant, and her experience is almost exclusively in an area vital to the interests of Americans – rich Americans, that is.

Credited for her work in launching Countryside, Ms. Boskin served as advertising director and publisher for Countryside prior to joining Town & Country in 1991. From 1988 to 1990, she was San Francisco, Pacific Northwest, and Asia Manager for Hearst Magazines, responsible for Esquire, Harpers Bazaar, House Beautiful, and Connoisseur…. She joined Knapp Communications in 1972 as San Francisco Manager for Architectural Digest, and later helped develop and launch Bon Appetit.

This woman has spent the majority of her career hyping the homes and appetites of the investor class, and what she knows is what appeals most strongly to people with a lot of money. This, of course, makes her an invaluable asset on the BOD of a public broadcasting network that used to be known for hard-hitting investigative journalism and producing shows with a mass appeal to people from whatever economic class who had more than two brain cells that talked to each other.

Have you noticed the emphasis on fluffery at PBS lately? ATC in particular has been afflicted with a long series of meaningless, mindless pieces on upscale real estate, gourmet cooking, and lifestyles-of-the-rich-and-famous segments. I remember one not too long ago on high-end (read: expensive) toys. Now you know why.

Member: BETH COURTNEY (Appointed by Bush)

Beth Courtney is, not to put too fine a point on it, a piece o’ stuff. The only one on the Board with a lengthy public broadcasting resume, she was President and CEO of Louisiana Public Broadcasting (LPB), as well as…

[a] past chairman of the board of America’s Public Television Stations and former Vice Chairman of the board of the Public Broadcasting Service. [She] currently serves on the boards of the Satellite Educational Resources Consortium, the Organization of State Broadcasting Executives, the National Forum for Public Television Executives and the National Educational Telecommunications Association.

Sounds like the first legitimate Bush appointment, don’t she? But wait. There is, as always with these people, more.

Last year the Independent Weekly reported that Courtney (she was LPB’s CEO at the time) had been fined $10,000 by the Louisiana Board of Ethics.

On Jan.12, the board ruled that Courtney and her husband, Bob, had violated state ethics laws prohibiting state employees and their family members from doing business with the state agency where the employee works. Bob Courtney’s company, Courtney Communications, was paid $46,869 by John Camp Productions Inc. to develop three documentaries.

Yup, she’s a Bushie alright: a public job exists to be ripped off for private gain.

And she has all the attitudes you might expect from a corporate honcho from a privileged class. How do I know? It seems an LPB reporter named Jeff Duhe blew the whistle on Courtney’s feeding her husband LPB money after he received this phone call from Courtney. She had asked him to do a “report” on the opening of a new Bass Pro Shop in northern Louisiana and he expressed reluctance because, he said, he had “reason to believe” that Bass Pro was one of her husband’s clients.

The phone call shows a screaming, raving Courtney furious at Duhe’s suggestion, which she of course claims has no basis in fact. But she doesn’t stop there or offer to prove him wrong. Like any other corporate plutocrat stymied by a subordinate, she insists that he doesn’t even have the right to ask the question. She belittles him, accuses him of wanting to do stories about “streetcars” and “people making art out of matchsticks”, calls him “crazy” and says he’s lucky he hasn’t been fired.

But the most revealing portion of the tape (if you’ve got the stomach to listen to it) is a full-on, hysterical rant – there’s no other word for it – in which she screeches at him, “I made this place! It was nothing until I got here.” A typical sentiment often expressed by corporate autocrats: if they help build something, even a public broadcasting network, as far as they’re concerned they own it.

That phone call apparently convinced Duhe – for good reason – that Courtney wasn’t exactly rational and he turned his evidence on the documentary deal over to the Ethics Board. Shortly after that, he was fired.

And shortly after that, Bush appointed Courtney to the CPB Board where she quickly became one of Ken Tomlinson’s biggest supporters – something she’d started when she aligned LPB with Tomlinson’s anti-liberal agenda. That advocacy is the most likely explanation for her appointment in the first place. If nothing else, Courtney knows where the power center is.

That Bush. He sure can pick ’em.

(to be cont’d)

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One response to “The CPB Board 3: Why PBS Is Moving to the Right

  1. Pingback: The CPB Board 2: Why PBS Is Moving to the Right « Mick Arran

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