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PBS Makes Changes Amid Charges of Liberal Bias

June 15, 2005|Matea Gold | Times Staff Writer

NEW YORK — PBS moved to inoculate itself Tuesday against charges that the taxpayer-funded service had a liberal slant, updating its editorial standards and announcing plans to hire an ombudsman.

The moves come amid ongoing friction between the Public Broadcasting Service and Republican leaders of the private Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which distributes federal funds to PBS stations.

CPB Chairman Kenneth Tomlinson has recently led a charge to add more conservative programming on PBS, saying that the service has a liberal reputation.

Though PBS had contemplated the creation of an ombudsman's position for more than six months, its decision comes after the CPB appointed two ombudsmen this spring to evaluate public television and radio content. Those hires caught PBS officials off guard.

Jacoba Atlas, PBS senior vice president for programming, said the service wanted to create a better conduit for feedback.

"I think what an ombudsman will do is eliminate any perception that anyone might have that we don't respond to criticism," she said.

The PBS board also updated editorial standards Tuesday.

In addition to mandating neutrality, the new guidelines instruct journalists to enter into inquiries with open minds and to provide viewers with a sense of transparency about their news-gathering methods and sources.

The new standards also require opinion pieces to be clearly identified.

A CPB spokesman said corporation officials had no comment on the changes.

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