Sunday, April 24, 2005

Sgt. Schultz takes command at PBS

Ken Ferree, the new chief executive of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, sounds just like Sgt. Schultz of Hogan's Heroes, whose trademark refrain was "I know nothing."

Asked in an interview in the New York Times Magazine if his predecessor, Kathleen Cox, was axed two weeks ago because she had incurred the wrath of conservative groups, he responded:

All I know is that on Friday afternoon the board chairman came in and asked if I would serve as interim president. I had no idea until the 11th hour that this was happening. I don't know what led to what.
Prior to joining CPB for what proved to be a short-term stint as its No. 2 executive, Ferree was the right-hand man, so to speak, of Michael Powell, the former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. It is believed by many commentators that Mr. Ferree has been placed in his new position to right, so to speak, what conservatives believe is a left-leaning tilt at the Public Broadcasting System and National Public Radio.

Only time will tell if his presence will bring about major changes in coverage. The indisputably alarming aspects of his appointment, however, are his unfamiliarity and professed lack of interest in the programming of the company he heads.

Asked in the New York Times Q&A to name his favorite PBS programs, he responded, "I'm not much of a TV consumer."

Asked his opinion of National Public Radio, which he also runs, Mr. Ferree said: "I do not get a lot of public radio for one simple reason. I commute to work on my motorcycle, and there is no radio access." He won't wire his cycles for sound, either, because "they're stripped down deliberately to look cool."

Most chilling were his comments on the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, a reliably thoughtful, in-depth discussion of the day's major news events featuring painstakingly balanced panels of newsmakers and independent experts.

"Yes, Lehrer is good, but I don't watch a lot of broadcast news," said Mr. Ferree, continuing:
The problem for me is that I do the Internet news stuff all day long, so by the time I get to the Lehrer thing . . . it's slow. I don't always want to sit down and read Shakespeare, and Lehrer is akin to Shakespeare. Sometimes I really just want a People magazine, and often that is in the evening, after a hard day.
Looks like Ken Ferree's hard days may turn into a lot of sleepless nights for the fine folks in public broadcasting.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nothing like a CEO who doesn't know his own product.

11:19 PM  

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