The Corporation for Public Broadcasting board is considering a two-year "content analysis" of public affairs TV documentaries aired on the Public Broadcasting Service . . .
The study would be conducted by media researcher S. Robert Lichter, whose reports on bias in the media have stirred controversy in the past . . .
The proposal -- from which the CPB board could derive its own conclusion in responding to any charges of program bias -- was first suggested by Richard Brookhiser, who is head of the board's missions and goals committee. He is a senior editor of the National Review . . .
A report on the proposal, to be prepared by staffs from both CPB and Lichter's Center for Media and Public Affairs, will be presented at the June 26-27 CPB board meeting in Minneapolis . . .
Lichter said yesterday that the proposal is in its "very, very preliminary stages."
"In light of all the controversy that PBS is 'unbalanced,' " Lichter said, "why not just do a straightforward scientific study? It would not be an attempt to say a program is right or left, biased or unbiased. We'd just look at such aspects as topics and information sources used -- perspectives that are presented in a scientific and nonjudgmental fashion . . .
"Instead of charges flying back and forth when a program is aired, you'd have factual material to see what is on PBS" . . .
At the Friday meeting, board member Lloyd Kaiser reportedly suggested the report could be extended to programs like "The MacNeil/ Lehrer NewsHour," pending results of the upcoming joint staff study . . .
Board member Sharon Rockefeller expressed doubts about the proposal, pointing out that studies of a given period of programming would not be particularly relevant when made available months or years after the fact . . .
In recent months, PBS has aired controversial programs on abortion and the Palestine issue. Individual stations in the system frequently added local commentaries on the issues involved and in some cases chose to pass on the programs altogether . . .
In the early 1970s, the Nixon administration sought to limit public affairs programming on PBS through the CPB board, a proposal that was beaten back by PBS lobbying efforts . . .
Yesterday, neither PBS President Bruce Christensen nor Barry Chase, who is in charge of public affairs programming at the public network, was available for commentary on the proposed study . . .
Also in the News
The final episode of the season for "Dallas" last Friday -- at the conclusion of which long-dead Bobby Ewing (Patrick Duffy) was seen soaping up in just-awakened Pam's shower -- achieved that CBS series' highest rating of the year, a 24.9 Nielsen count and a 42 percent share of the national audience . . .
Now we'll have to wait until September to see if Bobby dries off and if, indeed, that really IS the long-dead Bobby . . .
Thursday night, the last episode of the season for "The Cosby Show" on NBC earned a 31.8/54, "Cheers" wound up with a season-concluding 24.7/37 and CBS' "Knots Landing" ended with a 20.0/33 . . .
Sunday night, according to Nielsen's survey of its top 12 markets, the three-hour debut of "On Wings of Eagles" on NBC had a 19.6/31. From 9 to 11, "Stagecoach" did a 17.3/27 on CBS and "Brotherhood of Justice" on ABC did a 12.7/20 . . .
A group of about 20 pickets protested the pending cancellation of "The Carol Randolph Show" for about an hour yesterday morning at Channel 9 . . .
Bearing signs that read "Save Carol" and "Support Local Programming," the ad hoc picketers left about noon, according to station officials . . .
Although fall program schedules are not fixed at WDVM, the assumption is that the popular syndicated "Oprah Winfrey Show" will occupy the one-hour 10 a.m. weekday slot currently occupied by Randolph's program . . .
After discussing the protest with Ron Townsend, vice president and general manager of the station, who is attending the CBS affiliates' meeting in Los Angeles, Sandra B. Butler, manager of broadcast operations, who is in charge of producing WDVM's local programs, issued the following statement:
"Channel 9 television is, and will continue to be, responsive to this community through our local news and programming efforts. We are, and will continue to have, ongoing meetings with community leaders, determining from them their views of the needs and concerns of this area . . .
"We are having ongoing conversations with Carol and her representatives. We want Carol to continue her relationship with the station. Among the assignments we have offered her is a weekly program. We are currently reviewing the time slot and the staffing. The program, however, will be presented with the same quality that is tradition here at TV Nine" . . .
Butler pointed out that the station also covers local issues on its "Capital Edition" every Sunday and the teen-age-oriented "In Our Lives" on Saturday . . .
She also said that a Bruce Johnson documentary about the institutionalizing of the mentally ill in Washington -- "Out of Sight, Out of Mind" -- received an honorable mention in the Robert F. Kennedy journalism awards distributed last night . . .
Randolph, who will mark her 17th year at the station June 2, and has been a fixture over that period as a probing talk show host for WDVM, said yesterday that "what they've offered so far is really a step backward -- a half-hour Sunday morning show at 8:30 . . .
"I have no answers. There just isn't any room and they want reductions in my staff. At this point, what they've offered is just something I can't accept. We'll just see " . . .
She has not been told when her last weekday program will be aired. "I just don't know. Normally I take the month of August off" . . .
As for yesterday's protesters on her behalf, Randolph said "I don't know who they are but I think they're wonderful!" . . .
Moving Right Along
Guests for that May 29 "Viewpoint" on ABC discussing media manipulation will include NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw, ABC News President Roone Arledge, Soviet TV commentator Vladimir Posner and Sen. Jeremiah Denton (R-Ala.) . . .
Cable News Network Moscow bureau chief Stuart Loory is returning to the Washington bureau. He will be replaced by Peter Arnette . . .
With the new season a mere four months away, here is a list of mini-series being prepared by CBS Entertainment for next year . . .
"Fresno" (five hours) stars Carol Burnett "in a saga of the Raisin Capital of the World. The passion! The power! The produce! 'Fresno' is a contemporary comedy about two bitter rival families who attempt to drive each other into oblivion, or Bakersfield, whichever is closer" (is CBS developing a sense of humor?) . . .
"George Washington: The Forging of a Nation" (four). Barry Bostwick and Patty Duke are back as George and Martha starting in June, 1788, as he embarks on his two terms as president . . .
"The Last Frontier" (four) stars Linda Evans as a woman from L.A. who shows up in Australia's Outback with two kiddies to join her husband, only to learn he's dead. She and her "renegade lover" (Jack Thompson) team up to beat a drought and his ruthless land baron dad (Jason Robards), who wants her ranch . . .
"Monte Carlo" (four) stars Joan Collins as a Russian chanteuse (spare me) and Allied double agent in Monte (a veritable "hornet's nest of Reich generals, German industrialists, spies and double dealing profiteers of all sorts") on the eve of World War II. "Into her life comes the American novelist Harry Pilikian, who poses the ultimate threat of love" (Spare me again) . . .
"I'll Take Manhattan" (eight) is based on Judith Krantz's novel about a publishing empire and the thrice-married bimbo who struggles to save it from the "detested uncle" who's married her mom . . .
"Island of the Lost Muppets" (four) stars Kermit, who is seeking his roots after spotting an ancient mug with his mug on it at the Metropolitan Museum of Art . . .
"The Frank Sinatra Story" (eight). Abby Mann is still working on the script for this one. But how do you get it all, in just eight hours? . . .
"De Gaulle" (who gets only four hours) focuses on the personal life of the French general from his student days at St. Cyr military academy through two World Wars and leadership of postwar France . . .
Still to come: the mini-series on ABC and NBC