A PBS talk show will not routinely disclose that a "conservative commentator" on its panel is a senior appointee in the Bush administration.
Responding to criticism from her network's own ombudsman, "To the Contrary" host Bonnie Erbe has said she will not change her policy and identify government officials as such if they say they are appearing in a personal capacity. Network ombudsman Michael Getler suggested that Erbe identify the official in question, Karen Czarnecki, by verbally announcing her official title.
"Getler writes on the PBS website I should âat least describe the association verbally to viewers and state that she is not speaking for the department," Erbe says in her statement, posted to PBS. org. "I did so once about five years ago and am doing so again here." But apparently that's as far as it will go.
In his opinion posted last week, Getler called the policy a "big mistake." It might even be a violation of the network's ethics guidelines. Top media ethics experts have said it was unequivocally the wrong policy.
What does PBS think? "[The policy] meets PBS editorial standards," network spokeswoman Carrie Johnson told me. However, she clarified, "We hold our producers to editorial standards. There is some subjectivity in how each show identifies people."
So what about Getler's assertion that the policy may violate PBS' ethical guidelines -- was he wrong? "I don't know if I'd call it wrong," she said. "Mike has a different opinion. I think there are different interpretations."