A Trojan Horse in Washington The Working Group
Restructuring of Public Broadcasting Proposed by the Working Group
New York: A plan to free public broadcasting from improper government and corporate influences was presented today by the Working Group for Public Broadcasting, an organization of educators, journalists, communications lawyers, producers and others concerned with the quality, integrity and diversity of public broadcasting. (A list of the organizing members is attached.)
The proposal, called "Public Broadcasting: A National Asset to be Preserved, Promoted and Protected," which would restructure the financing and operation of the system, was made public in New York City at a noontime luncheon sponsored by the National Coalition Against Censorship at the Ethical Culture Society, 2 West 64th Street.
John Wicklein, Coordinator of the Working Group, said at the luncheon that "public broadcasting is a national asset that must have much more money if it is to produce the excellent and independent programming we demand of it. But we must fund it in a way that neither government officials nor corporate executives can control the content of its programs." Wicklein, director of the Kiplinger Midcareer Program for Journalists at Ohio State University, says the Working Group has substantial anecdotal and documented evidence from those involved with public broadcasting that pressure is exerted to influence programming and organizational decisions. The restructuring plan would minimize this possibility.
The restructuring plan, providing for independence and stable funding, suggests a new Public Broadcasting Act of 1989, to:
Establish an Independent Public Broadcast Institution to replace the present Corporation for Public Broadcasting;
Eliminate direct funding from Congressional appropriations and the board appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate and replace them with nonpolitical funding, operating structure and governance;
Provide funding by means of a 2% levy on factory sales of consumer electronic products, most of which come from abroad, and on broadcast, studio and related electronic communication equipment;
Assure that one half of the estimated $600 million a year raised by the levy, an amount which is more than double that now available from all sources for programming, would be passed through to local public stations for their own productions and one half would be retained by the Institution to commission and produce programs for national schedules;
Create a national news organization in public television, similar to that which now exists in National Public Radio, to produce more complete coverage than is now provided by the commercial networks;
Increase diversity by boosting the funding for public affairs and cultural programs from independent producers.
Ben H. Bagdikian, Professor of Journalism, University of California, Berkeley
Larry Daressa, Co-Chair, National Coalition of Independent Public Broadcasting Producers, San Francisco
William Fore, Executive Director, Communication Division, National Council of Churches, New York, and first Chairperson, Citizen's Advisory Committee to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting
Henry Geller, Director, Washington, DC Center of Public Policy Research and formerly Assistant Secretary of Commerce leading the National Telecommunications and Information Administration
Mable Haddock, Executive Director, National Black Programming Consortium, Columbus, OH
Leanne Katz, Executive Director, National Coalition Against Censorship, NY
Carolyn Lewis, formerly a reporter for public broadcasting, Ocean View, DE
Everett C. Parker, professor at Fordham University and formerly Director, Office of Communication, United Church of Christ, White Plains, NY
Ned Schnurman, President, Press and the Public Project, NY, and producer of "Inside Story"
Andrew Schwartzman, Director, Media Access Project, Washington, DC
George Stoney, Professor of Undergraduate Film and Television, New York University
John Wicklein, Coordinator of the Working Group, Director, Kiplinger Midcareer Program in Public Affairs Reporting, the Ohio State University, formerly in charge of news and public affairs programs at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting; former Religion Editor, New York Times; former Dean, School of Public Communications, Boston University; 242 West 18th Avenue, Columbus, OH 43210-1107; (614) 292-2607 or -6291