Thursday, December 21, 2006

Bush puts conservative on public broadcast board

Bush puts conservative on public broadcast board
By Jeremy Pelofsky

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President George W. Bush on Wednesday installed self-described conservative writer and producer Warren Bell on the board of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which supports U.S. public television and radio.

Bell, who was nominated in June, writes for the conservative magazine The National Review and was previously a writer and producer for "Coach" and "Ellen," two popular TV series in the 1990s.

The Senate Commerce Committee had been scheduled to hold a confirmation hearing for him in September but he was dropped from the agenda because of concerns by both Republicans and Democrats.

The Los Angeles Times reported that some of Bell's fellow writers said he had made negative comments about funding public broadcasting, a charge he denied. No action on his nomination was taken by the Senate before it adjourned earlier this month.

Bush's recess appointment allows Bell to hold the board position until Congress adjourns next year, the White House said. Such appointments may be made by the president when Congress is not in session.

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting is a federally funded nonprofit corporation and the largest single source of money for U.S. public television and radio programming, including PBS and National Public Radio. It is governed by a presidentially appointed board.

The board was the source of political controversy in 2005 when its chairman at the time, Kenneth Tomlinson, was criticized for injecting politics into the organization when he recruited a former senior Republican party official -- Patricia Harrison -- as its new president and chief executive.

Tomlinson had sought to add more conservative-minded shows to the line-up to counter what many conservatives considered a liberal bias in public broadcasting. He resigned in November 2005 amid the controversy.

The Bush administration has come under fire before for trying to influence news coverage, including paying a conservative commentator to praise its new education law and the production by government agencies of video news releases that some television stations aired without identifying their origin.