Ken Tomlinson survived a vote of no-confidence yesterday only because of White House support. Tomlinson, the chair of the Broadcast Board of Governors (BBG), kept his job with the key vote delivered by Undersecretary of State Karen Hughes (representing Sec. of State Condi Rice on the BBG board). In essence, it was the Presidentâ€”or more likely Tomlinsonâ€™s pal Karl Roveâ€”that kept him in charge of the U.S. overseas propaganda/and news service. Tomlinsonâ€™s activities were criticized recently by a State Department Inspector-General report. Among the charges: Tomlinson spent time on the job working on his horse racing business.
Democrats on the BBG board supported two resolutions: his dismissal as chair while an inquiry continues and one that would have reduced his authority. Tomlinson, you will recall, was also forced to give up his other Bush Adm. high-level job last yearâ€”chair of the board of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Both at CPB and BBG, Tomlinson has engaged in a variety of activities that were deemed unprofessionalâ€”if not illegal. But he also gave the White House what it wanted. At CPB, Tomlinson created a behind the scenes pressure campaign to stifle the (occasionally) more serious journalism of PBS and NPR, and put GOP party operatives in overall control. At the BBG, we assume Tomlinsonâ€™s role has ensured that its various services are fully incorporated with the overall Administration game plan for its â€œwar on terror.â€ Think `psyopsâ€™ and government PR. Tomlinson would have also actively quelled any internal dissent about the BBGâ€™s mission, coming from the more idealistic news types at VOA. The blind loyalty he has received from the White House raises the question of exactly what Tomlinsonâ€™s has been doing for them at the BBG. We hope reporters and others will help us find out. Iâ€™d like to place a bet on it!