CPB Boards Elects Republican Activist Halpern Chairman

Sep 26, 2005  •  Post A Comment

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s Republican-dominated board elected Cheryl Halpern, a longtime Republican activist, to succeed Ken Tomlinson as the board’s chairman.

At the same time the board elected Gay Hart Gaines, a former chair of the GOPAC Republican fund-raising group, to serve as the CPB’s board vice chairman. “We must honor the principles clearly stated in our charter: to encourage objective and balanced programming,” said Ms. Halpern, in a statement. In an effort to inject a sense of bipartisanship, Ernest Wilson, one of the CPB board’s Democrats, urged his colleagues to consider promoting Beth Courtney, president and CEO of Louisiana Public Broadcasting, to one of the two top board seats. “The signal seems to be that we’re going to be partisan,” Mr. Wilson said after the vote.

In a statement, Jeff Chester, executive director of the watchdog Center for Digital Democracy, said Ms. Halpern was likely to continue the efforts by CPB’s board under Mr. Tomlinson’s leadership, which Mr. Chester characterized as a campaign to force public broadcasting to produce programming more acceptable to conservatives. “Her election does a disservice to those who care about the quality of PBS, NPR and other public media outlets,” Mr. Chester said. Said CPB President and CEO Patricia Harrison, in a statement: “I look forward to working closely with both her [Ms. Halpern] and Vice Chairman Gaines to strengthen public broadcasting’s connection to community, to increase the reach and effectiveness of public broadcasting and public broadcasting stations in the education of our children, and for greater openness and transparency in the operations of CPB.”

GOPAC is credited with helping Republican candidates win a majority of the seats in the House in 1994 under the leadership of former Rep. Newt Gingrich, R-Ga.