Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, December 2005, page 27

Media Watch

Israel-Firster Cheryl Halpern Named Head Of Corporation for Public Broadcasting

By Richard H. Curtiss

CPB head Cheryl F. Halpern (www.cpb.org).

CHERYL F. Halpern, a major Republican fundraiser, has been elected the new chairwoman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB). The private, nonprofit corporation, created by Congress in 1967, describes itself as “the largest single source of funding for public television and radio programming.”

Halpern has served on the CPB board since 2002, and has criticized National Public Radio’s Middle East coverage, calling it biased against Israel. She has overseen such U.S. government-funded media projects as Voice of America, Radio Marti in Cuba and Radio Free Iraq. Formerly chairwoman for the Republican Jewish Coalition, Halpern currently sits on the board of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a spinoff of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Israel’s Washington, DC lobby. In 2001 she used her own personal funds to commission a review of anti-Semitism in Syrian textbooks.

Halpern was a delegate from the Coordinating Board of Jewish Organizations to the 4th United Nations World Conference on Women’s Rights in 1995 in Beijing, and from 1998 to 2002 chaired the United Nations Advisory Council of B’nai B’rith International. Halpern’s selection as CPB chair, warned the citizens’ group Common Cause, may “mean more politicizing for public broadcasting.”

Perhaps not surprisingly, Halpern’s family has business interests in Israel. She is married to Fredrick Michael Halpern, a real estate developer born in Bayreuth, Bavaria, who is a member of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith as well as of AIPAC. The couple has three children.

In her new role Halpern will oversee distribution of the $400 million in funds for public radio and television stations that CPB receives from Congress. In mid-October, conservative House Republicans proposed that taxpayer support for CPB be eliminated as part of a cost-cutting effort to pay for repairing the damage from Hurricane Katrina. Indeed, for many years some Republicans have sought to permanently eliminate CPB’s public funding.

At her 2002 confirmation hearing for a position on the CPB board of directors, Halpern suggested that journalists in public broadcasting need to be punished for editorializing in programs.

A spokeswoman for National Public Radio, Andi Sporkin, criticized the corporation under the chairmanship of Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, Halpern’s predecessor, who conceived, but did not implement, a plan to monitor NPR for anti-Israel bias: The Sept. 27 Los Angeles Times quoted Sporkin as saying, “The events at CPB over the last six months have been disappointing for public radio as we’ve watched an organization that has supported public broadcasting for four decades, and through all administrations, become an instrument of ideology and agenda. Our hope is that the new leadership acknowledges the value Congress and millions of Americans have placed on public broadcasting’s service and integrity, restores the vital fire wall, and rights the course of CPB.”

For people who have generally supported NPR, Halpern’s appointment will come as a shock. Some people may shift their voluntary contributions to such alternatives as Pacifica Radio. Others may withhold their contributions from their local public television and radio stations as long as Halpern is in charge of who gets CPB funding and hope for a better day in the next year or two.

Excellent PBS Documentary

“Elusive Peace: Israel and the Palestinians” is an excellent150-minute PBS documentary covering the entire history of the Arab-Israeli conflict. For those new to the subject as well as for those who just want to review it, there are few better resources. While people on all sides of the issue will wish that some elements had been included, given the fact that the imbroglio has gone on for more than a century the film is a remarkable achievement.

Although it’s remarkable that the film was aired at all, it unfortunately was not widely publicized, at least not in the Washington, DC area. Hopefully it will be re-broadcast—although given the situation described above, that may be an increasingly dubious eventuality. Not willing to wait, however, the AET Book Club has taken matters into its own hands and is making the documentary available at $24.99.To order a copy, call (800) 368-5788, ext. 2. You’ll be glad you did. 


Richard H. Curtiss is executive editor of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, on Middle East Affairs.