The Importance of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s Oversight Obligation
Representative Steve Rothman
November 17, 2005
During this debate on the Conference Report for the Fiscal Year 2006 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Appropriations bill, I want to call attention to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s (CPB) obligation to ensure unbiased and objective programming.
The U.S. Congress provides the CPB with approximately $400 million each year. CPB then allocates these funds to the Public Broadcasting Service, National Public Radio, and other recipients. It does so, as the Telecommunications Act makes clear, with the responsibility to ensure that recipients demonstrate “strict adherence to objectivity and balance in all programs or series of programs of a controversial nature.” CPB also must see to “maximum freedom of the public telecommunications entities and system from interference with, or control of, program content or other activities.”
These two obligations do not contradict each other. Rather, together they circumscribe the lawful activity of tax-supported public broadcasting programmers and program providers. Public broadcasting should enjoy “maximum freedom” from outside “interference or control”…so long as it simultaneously demonstrates “strict adherence to objectivity and balance in all programs or series of programs of a controversial nature.”
Mr. Speaker, there should be no confusion. These obligations reinforce each other. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting must implement both on behalf of Congress and the taxpayers.
I commend CPB for creating a new unique office, the Office of Ombudsmen, as a step towards ensuring that these standards of fairness and independent reporting are upheld. Guaranteeing that basic journalistic requirements of objectivity and balance are maintained in public programming is hardly interference. In fact, I strongly believe that the public’s trust in public broadcasting rests on just such standards and I will continue to fight to see that they are maintained.