Because Someone Has to Read Those E-mails!


The position of "ombudsman," as I explained in an August 2003 column, has historically been limited mostly to monopolies, government bureaucracies, and overstaffed media outlets. So it should probably come as no surprise that the latest organization to embrace this walking advertisement for staff bloat is none other than the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which oversees PBS and NPR. In a novel twist, CPB is hiring two ombudsmen, even though NPR already has one, and "PBS was in the process of hiring one before yesterday's announcement." From the Washington Post story:

CBP president and chief executive Kathleen Cox said in an interview yesterday that the ombudsman appointments were part of an effort "to raise public broadcasting's ability to address [public] concerns about issues of journalism."

How about first raising public broadcasting's ability to not waste our money on wholly unnecessary jobs?

Meanwhile, the Cleveland Plain-Dealer has jumped on the bandwagon.

NEXT: "congestion coalition, glowing vomit, level playing field theory, sex with dogs, culture boom" (Veiled Sub and Book Pitch)

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  1. …. when he begins his service as the Plain Dealer’s Reader Representative. (Ombudsman remains strange to American ears.)

    Or, just to stupid Clevelanders who read that poop rag.

    I am from Cleveland, and I can testify that the Plain Dealer is a monopoly, as it is the only large-circulation newspaper in all of NE Ohio (unless you count the Akron-Beacon Journal, but who reads that, anyway? — just expressing the viewpoint of your typical lifetime Clevelander).

    and the Plain Dealer is neither fair, nor balanced, nor impartial, which is why I mostly get my news from web services such as this one now.

  2. Until Americans have to pay a TAX on their fucking TV SETS to fund their STATE television programs, you can SHUT your fat American mouths about another evil bureaucratic job being created as you go watch The Office, which Time Magazine dubbed “NBC’s most original sitcom in years.” And give my pud a few pulls while you’re at it.

  3. Did the H&R comments script just try to censor me?

    You bastards.

  4. “How about first raising public broadcasting’s ability to not waste our money on wholly unnecessary jobs?”

    Matt, don’t be silly: they need the ombudman to make that determination!

  5. I’ve never understood how an ombudsman, who is intended to impartially resolve disputes between party A and party B, could be anything but a laughingstock if he or she is a paid employee of party B.

  6. How about the CPB ombudsperson – you know they will be gender-neutral about it, right? – reading this

    Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom….of the press..

    and figuring out that the Congress had no authority to conjure up such a creature as a Corporation for Public Broadcasting, let alone appropriate any funds for it. Then he (or she, of course) could declare the whole operation illegitimate, and resign.

    I know I know, sheer fantasy.


  7. Agreed of course, but CPB/PBS/NPR receive relatively small percentages of their operating income from govt, which is why they have to resort to their tediously comical beg-a-thons. Not that that makes it OK, but there’s bigger fish to fry…

  8. And Viewers:

    You may be right about where member stations get their operating funds from, but I still don’t like the set-up. Reasons:

    1.) Many (most?) of the stations are licensed to units of government. This basis of our government being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. – Thomas Jefferson. I don’t think the government owning and operating the electronic equivalent of newspapers is quite what the founders had in mind.

    2.) I don’t trust the budgeting. Local TV and radio people tell me that our PBS outlets, licensed to the local state vocational/technical college, and our local NPR outlets, licensed to state universities, are considered gold-plated by those in commercial radio. Whenever a new technology arises, such as HDTV, these stations buy the experimental equipment first, where a market-driven broadcaster would have to wait until the tech matures enough to justify the capital expense. One also wonders if the rents charged for on-campus facilities are at market rates. The voc-tech that runs public TV in our town grants AA degrees in broadcast operations. Some of the costs of the stations are assigned to the budget of the school’s radio/TV department, and who knows if the accounting could withstand scrutiny. I suspect the taxpayers are on the hook for more of the stations’ capital expenses than the college would like to admit.

    I listen to non-commercial radio quite a bit, but my favorites are licensed to private non-profits.


  9. I’d like to see a “gold-plated” PBS station. My local station — run by the state’s flagship university — still does not have a digital signal. The FCC was admonishing commercial stations like TBN in 2002 for not having a digital signal. I guess the rules only apply to non-government stations.

  10. Have another hit of this groovy OM bud, man…

  11. “Ombudsman” is just another bullshit buzzword. Except this time, it’s not a buzzword describing some business lingo or technical jargon (i.e. “process-centric”, “enterprise solution provider”, blah blah blah – just see here).

    It’s a buzzword fad for the touchy-feely public relations industry. It’s a make-work job for somebody with a PR degree who needs work dealing with all those other people in make-work jobs with PR degrees.

  12. I’ve never understood how an ombudsman, who is intended to impartially resolve disputes between party A and party B

    …and when party A could resolve the “dispute” by no longer buying party B’s product.

  13. As I wrote before your dirty goddamn perl script burned my cookies and ate my post, you Americans who don’t even pay a TAX for your TV SETS to be able to watch STATE television should shut your traps. Sit back and enjoy your private network TV brilliance.

    In fact, why not relax and tune in to The Office, which Time Magazine has called “NBC’s most original sitcom in years.”

  14. sidereal,

    I’ve always wondered the same thing about administrative law judges. They are supposedly neutral and independent of the agency that pays their salary. Of course, they may have an independent career track, tenure, etc., so they aren’t directly dependent on the officials involved in a dispute. But they’ve also spent an entire career absorbing the institutional culture of their agency.

  15. What Kevin C. said. Then there’s the whole separation-of-powers issue. AdminLaw judges are technically employees of the Executive Branch, aren’t they? What’s up with that?


  16. And Viewers,

    The local public radio station is my #1 preset station in my vehicle. But they get no money from me during fund-raising drives, and won’t until they stop taking other people’s money – and mine – without their consent in the form of taxes.

    Poke around a bit on the various web-sites and you’ll quickly discover that the statement that “CPB/PBS/NPR/PRI/MPR receive relatively small percentages of their operating income from govt” is definitely not true.

    Essentially it’s a bunch of different gov’t-subsidized corporations, separate radio stations and state-wide networks who can all claim that they get only a LITTLE money from the gov’t by dividing up how they get it and shuffling it around by “paying” for programming, etc. If it wasn’t a gov’t operation it would be called money laundering.

    Public broadcasting corporations engage in some pretty significant shell games to hide how much of their budget comes out of the wallets of people who don’t listen and don’t watch in the form of gov’t subsidies – and therefore are paying for something they don’t benefit from.

    Here’s the saddest part about public broadcasting – they can’t draw enough advertising dollars to cover their operating costs without gov’t subsidies and “beg-a-thons.” Yet they STILL run advertising.

    Ok, they call them “underwriting spots,” but it’s still advertising, for example: “brought to you by the Ford Explorer, built to do more.”

    If they only get a tiny amount of money from the gov’t, why don’t they all just go to “beg-a-thons” and advertising? Because without gov’t funding for a huge chunk of their operations they’d go belly up.

  17. The local public radio station is my #1 preset station in my vehicle. But they get no money from me during fund-raising drives, and won’t until they stop taking other people’s money – and mine – without their consent in the form of taxes.

    I have the same policy, and for the same reasons.

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