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Public TV federal fund use probed

November 19, 2005|Matea Gold | Times Staff Writer

NEW YORK — The inspector general of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting is launching an investigation into whether public television and radio stations around the country inappropriately used federal funds to lobby against threatened budget cuts this summer.

Kenneth A. Konz said Friday that he will examine the matter at the request of 18 Republican lawmakers, who asked the inspector general in August to determine whether the stations used federal money to finance on-air appeals asking viewers and listeners to contact their representatives about proposed cuts to public broadcasting.

The local campaigns are credited with having helped muster congressional support to restore funding for the system.

The corporation, a private nonprofit, distributes about $400 million a year to local stations for programming and operations. Stations are prohibited from using that money to lobby, Konz said.

But he noted that federal funds make up only a fraction of station budgets. "Since stations only get a small portion of their money from CPB, we don't think it's likely our money was used for that purpose," Konz said.

Still, his office plans to investigate just to be sure -- a probe he said he does not expect will be completed rapidly, because it will require getting certification from more than 570 stations about exactly how their federal grants were spent.

Meanwhile, Konz said he plans to continue working with the corporation's board as it moves to implement reforms in the wake of his most recent report, which said that former chairman Kenneth Y. Tomlinson repeatedly violated federal law and internal regulations. Tomlinson, who resigned in advance of the report's release, has disputed the charges and says that he was seeking to bring political balance to the system.

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