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New President, an Ex-GOP Chair, Enters Clash Over Public Airwaves

June 24, 2005|Jube Shiver Jr. | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — As the new president of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Patricia de Stacy Harrison will arrive at the agency during a tumultuous period in public broadcasting.

She comes from the State Department, where she served as assistant secretary for educational and cultural affairs, an appointee of President Bush. In her new job, she will oversee a private nonprofit that distributes federal funds to the nation's 1,100 public radio and TV stations.

Harrison, hired by the CPB board of directors Wednesday, edged out more than 200 other candidates and was CPB Chairman Kenneth Y. Tomlinson's top pick for the president's post.

She led a bureau of 360 employees, and is described as a personable manager.

"I am pleased to join with the board and all stakeholders in the future success of public broadcasting," Harrison said.

Harrison is known as a good listener and a determined executive who thrives on feedback and sticks with tasks until they are completed, said one Washington lawyer who knows her well.

Harrison displayed her approach during a meeting with CPB staff members Thursday when she indicated she would call on former corporation officials to assist in a smooth transition. She also said she wanted to help public television stations complete a move to a digital broadcasting system mandated by Congress.

Nevertheless, some supporters of public broadcasting have concerns about her involvement in State Department policy campaigns that have called on the agency to influence the media in the U.S. and abroad.

Describing one such campaign to the House International Relations Committee in August, Harrison said, "We are helping Arab and Muslim journalists produce balanced reports and documentaries on topics from policy to culture" as well as " 'good news' stories on reconstruction in Iraq and Afghanistan that American and foreign news editors have incorporated in their programs."

Four days later, appearing with Tomlinson before a House subcommittee, she talked about cultural outreach programs directed at Arab Muslims to combat terrorism.

Harrison has worked closely with Tomlinson in his capacity as chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, a federal body that oversees Voice of America and other broadcast ventures abroad.

Harrison once founded a Washington lobbying and public relations firm that specialized in representing companies with environmental issues. Later, she served from 1997 until January 2001 as co-chair of the Republican National Committee, where she helped raise money for Republican candidates.

The CPB board hired Harrison on Wednesday after two days of heated deliberations.

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