Joel Mowbray: In lockstep no more

Joel Mowbray ([email protected]) writes to update his report this morning on the government funded Al Hurra television network. Joel writes:

For three months, Al-Hurra’s oversight panel, the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), has had a simple split on embattled news director Larry Register: Outgoing Chairman Ken Tomlinson versus the rest of the board.
That changed yesterday.
Republican board member Blanquita Cullum issued a short, but refreshingly blunt statement whose first paragraph reads in its entirety: “It is time for Larry Register to be fired.”
Here’s the rest of the statement:

“Based on the continuing problems at Alhurra network, I believe an
investigation is warranted. I am concerned that the mission of Alhurra may be compromised. I believe the rank and file of Alhurra are hard working good journalists. In the interest of the American people and to maintain the credibility of Alhurra, this process should happen quickly and with complete transparency.”

The timing of her statement was significant. Not only did it come on the same day as the Foreign Operations Appropriations subcommittee withheld millions in funding to punish Al-Hurra for Register’s broadcast decisions, but it happened exactly one week before the BBG meets next Tuesday in Prague.
Without the defection of Cullum, who apparently wanted to give Register the benefit of the doubt until my third Wall Street Journal column, the BBG might have been able to avoid voting next week, continuing to pretend as if this is Tomlinson’s struggle. (Tomlinson yesterday was officially removed from the board with the Senate confirmation of new chairman James Glassman, who is almost certainly not a believer in providing a platform to Islamic terrorists and Holocaust
deniers.)
Not anymore. If the BBG avoids at least voting up-or-down to retain or fire Register next week, then they risk alienating Congress. If they can’t convince lawmakers that are trying to fix the Al-Hurra mess, then the odds of restoring funds for fiscal year 2008 drop considerably.
But for some BBG members, the risk is personal. Several board members are awaiting confirmation for second terms — or in the case of recess appointment Mark McKinnon, a first — and foolishly stubborn defense of Register could force Senators to have grave doubts about confirming them.
Cullum has no doubt earned the wrath of many of her fellow board members, several of whom have become obsessed with saving Register, but she can say something that most of them can’t: she’s earned the gratitude of Congress and the American people.

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