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PBS Adopts Updated Editorial Standards For On-Air And Online Content, CEO Pat Mitchell Announces PBS Will Hire Ombudsman
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ALEXANDRIA, VA - June 14, 2005 - Today the PBS Board voted to adopt an updated set of Editorial Standards and Policies that will guide PBS' programming and content development decisions. In a separate action, PBS CEO and President Pat Mitchell announced that PBS management has decided to add an ombudsman position to the PBS staff. The ombudsman will report directly to Ms. Mitchell. A search has not yet begun and details of the process are to be announced in the future.

The updated standards and policies are the product of more than a year of careful evaluation by PBS, including the creation in Fall 2004 of a committee of national experts for the purpose of conducting a formal review of PBS' content policies. This assessment included a thorough examination of the standards and codes of many media and journalistic organizations, including the Society of Professional Journalists, the Radio and Television News Directors Association, the Poynter Institute of Media Studies, the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, Wisconsin Public Broadcasting, among others. The panel met in a series of open meetings from February to June 2005. The policies were made available to the public today and are currently posted on (at

"More than a year ago, we set out to assemble a committee with the knowledge and experience necessary for this endeavor and equal to the enormity of the task," said PBS President and CEO Pat Mitchell. "We were so fortunate to have a panel of such outstanding experts rise to this challenge. The committee members gave unselfishly of their time and exceptional talent to help us secure the course for PBS programming in the 21st century."

"PBS has been contemplating adding an ombudsman to the PBS staff for quite some time," continued Pat Mitchell. "We are delighted to have our thoughts about the value of such an addition seconded by this distinguished committee. Our goal is to provide a public way for us to listen to our viewers. The ombudsman will have a free hand to determine what he or she examines."

The updated policies do not represent a significant departure from those PBS has used since 1987. In its report to the Board, the committee members stated, "After completing its review, the Committee concludes that PBS' [original] Program Policies are well-reasoned and clear, articulate enduring principles that encourage high-quality content and a wide range of information, opinion, and artistic expression, and embody high journalistic standards. To reflect that sentiment, the Committee determined during its deliberations that the Policies need only minimal changes and should be altered only as necessary to reflect evolving technology and journalistic norms."

Most of the changes made to the policies were done to make them more relevant in a multi-platform media environment where the public obtains information from a diverse range of sources that include not simply television and radio, but also Web sites, blogs and online journals, among many others.

Included with the updated standards is a set of findings and recommendations, the latter of which will be reviewed by the Content Policy Committee of the PBS Board and PBS management for consideration.

The Editorial Standards Review Committee team of experts included:

  • Howard Finberg, Director, Interactive Learning, The Poynter Institute of Media Studies;
  • Marvin Kalb, Senior Fellow, Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy; Lecturer in Public Policy and Faculty Chair, Washington Programs, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University;
  • Charles Overby, Chairman, President and CEO of the Freedom Forum; Chairman and CEO, Newseum;
  • Geneva Overholser, Curtis B. Hurley Chair in Public Affairs Reporting, Missouri School of Journalism, Washington Bureau;
  • John Seigenthaler, Founder and Senior Advisory Trustee of the First Amendment Center, Vanderbilt University; Chairman Emeritus of The Tennessean;
  • Bernard Shaw, Former reporter and Principal Anchor, CNN; and
  • Carl Stern, J.B. and Maurice C. Shapiro Professor of Media and Public Affairs, George Washington University.

The committee also included distinguished public television leaders from the PBS Board, including:

  • Mary Ann Alhadeff, President & CEO, Maine Public Broadcasting Network; PBS Board Member;
  • Elizabeth Christopherson, Executive Director, New Jersey Network; PBS Board Member; and
  • Jennifer Lawson, General Manager, WHUT-TV, Washington, DC; PBS Board Member.

Tom Rosenstiel, Director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, served as Professional Advisor to the Committee.

Note: Alberto Ibargüen, Publisher of the Miami Herald, served as the initial chair of the Committee until his resignation as Chairman of the PBS Board following his selection as President of the Knight Foundation. PBS is a grant recipient of the Knight Foundation.

About PBS
PBS is a private, nonprofit media enterprise that serves the nation's 348 public noncommercial television stations, reaching nearly 90 million people each week. Bringing diverse viewpoints to television and the Internet, PBS provides high-quality documentary and dramatic entertainment, and consistently dominates the most prestigious award competitions. PBS is the leading provider of educational materials for K-12 teachers, and offers a broad array of educational services for adult learners. Video resources for educators are available at PBS' premier kids' TV programming and Web site, PBS KIDS Online (, continue to be parents' and teachers' most trusted learning environments for children. More information about PBS is available at, the leading dot-org Web site on the Internet. PBS is headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia.



Stephanie Aaronson, 703/739-5074,
Jan McNamara, 703/739-5028,